If your saliva turns pink after brushing and flossing your teeth at least a few times a week, you may have early stage gum disease. But this troubling symptom can be accompanied by other startling symptoms, or no symptoms at all.
“It’s a very silent disease,” said Dr. Rodrigo Neiva, president of Periodontics at Penn Dentistry.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half One U.S. adult over the age of 30 shows signs of periodontal disease, and 9% have severe gum disease, known as periodontal disease.
Left untreated, periodontal disease can make healing more difficult. “Patients may eventually lose their teeth,” Dr. Naiva says. There are also studies linking periodontal disease with other undesirable health conditions such as dementia, diabetes and heart disease.
Here’s everything you need to know about periodontal disease, including its causes, early symptoms, how to prevent it, and what your dentist can do to manage it.
understand the cause
Early periodontal disease is called gingivitis and is characterized by inflammation of the gums (also known as gums).
“It’s caused by bacteria, or plaque, on the teeth that release products that irritate the gums,” said Deborah Foyle, M.D., interim chair of periodontics at Texas A&M University School of Dentistry.
Good oral hygiene is key to preventing gum disease as it removes plaque before bacteria can harm the gums. Gingivitis is often caused by improper brushing and flossing. Sometimes only parts of the gums are affected, especially those behind poorly brushed teeth, Dr. Naiva says.
Dentists can diagnose gingivitis by using a special instrument that measures the distance between the gum and the tooth, said Y. Natalie Chung, Ph.D., professor of dentistry and director of periodontics at Tufts University. A large space indicates a state.
If gingivitis is left untreated, bacteria can invade and destroy the tissue beneath the gums, causing advanced periodontal disease or periodontal disease. “The bone that supports the teeth begins to break down, and in some cases the roots of the teeth are exposed and sensitive,” Dr. Foyle says. “There will be gaps between the teeth and the teeth will start to wobble.”
people who smoke Diabetes Grinding your teeth increases your chances of developing periodontal disease, Dr. Chong says. Some drugs, such as steroids, certain epilepsy drugs, and anticancer drugs, can also increase risk. Genetics can also make people more or less susceptible, she noted.
People who rarely get cavities may be more likely to have periodontal disease than others, Dr. Neiva said. This is because the bacteria that cause periodontal disease compete with and suppress the bacteria that cause tooth decay.
“It’s common for people with very advanced periodontal disease to have no cavities,” he says.
Warning signs and what to do about them
Because gingivitis is painless, it often goes unnoticed. But people with gingivitis may notice that their gums bleed when brushing or flossing, Dr. Naiva says. The areas of the gums adjacent to the teeth may also appear red instead of pink.
That said, smokers with gingivitis may not experience bleeding gums or other symptoms, Dr. Chong said. “People tend to think, ‘I’m fine, my gums aren’t bleeding and I’m fine,’ but that’s a misconception,” she said.
Regular brushing and flossing can help prevent periodontal disease, but once gingivitis sets in, good home oral hygiene may not solve the problem. That’s because bacteria may have started to build up below the gum level, Dr. Naiva says. In such cases, professional cleaning and possibly antibiotics can be used to treat and cure the gingivitis.
As gingivitis progresses to more advanced periodontal disease, people may notice that their gums start to recede and their teeth appear longer, Dr. Chong said. You may also experience sensitivity around the gums. Because your teeth are misaligned, they may not fit together as well when you chew, which can lead to chronic bad breath. Eventually the teeth will begin to become loose and may even fall out.
Advanced periodontal disease may not be cured. However, dentists and periodontists can recommend treatments that slow or prevent further gum and bone loss. They may also recommend a thorough cleaning of the roots of the affected tooth and gum surgery.
Keeping your gums healthy is ultimately easy. Brush twice a day, floss once a day, and see a dentist every six months or as often as recommended, Dr. Naiva said.
“The sooner we find it, the more we can do,” he said.