Periodontal Disease: How to Protect Your Teeth and Gums
Millions of people have periodontal (gum) disease and many don't even know
they have it. Are you one of them?
Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that support your teeth.
It is caused by the plaque-forming bacteria in your mouth. While brushing and
flossing removes most plaque, it is impossible to remove all of it. The
remaining plaque hardens into tartar. When this tartar forms under the gumline,
it can irritate and infect the gums, leading to gum disease.
The good news is that periodontal disease is easily preventable. The
Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) reminds the public about the importance of
maintaining healthy teeth and gums.
Periodontal disease has two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis. The first
stage, gingivitis, is the early stage of periodontal disease, where the bacteria
get in between the tooth and gum, causing inflammation. During this early stage,
daily brushing and flossing can likely reverse periodontal disease.
If left untreated, periodontitis, the more advanced stage of periodontal
disease, can develop, causing irreversible damage to the gums, teeth and
surrounding bones. Periodontitis is more serious because the tissue that holds
the teeth to the bone is destroyed, causing tooth roots to be exposed and
increasing decay, inflammation and receding gums, resulting in possible tooth
There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing
periodontal disease, including the use of tobacco; certain systematic diseases,
such as diabetes; some types of medication, including steroids and various
anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, calcium channel blockers and oral
contraceptives; bridges that no longer fit properly; crooked teeth; fillings
that have become defective and pregnancy.
"Researchers have found that people with gum disease are almost twice as
likely to suffer from coronary artery disease," said Dr. David Shemo, a PDA
member and general dentist from Wilkes-Barre. "Their theory is that oral
bacteria can affect the heart when it enters the blood stream, attaching to
fatty plaques in the heart's blood vessels and contributing to clot
PDA offers the following tips to maintain optimal dental health and prevent
more information about periodontal disease and what you can do to keep your
teeth and gums healthy.
- Brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. Brushing and
flossing helps to remove the plaque and food particles from the surface of the
teeth and between the teeth where a toothbrush can't reach. Replace your
toothbrush every few months or when the bristles become frayed or worn. Using a
fluoride toothpaste and antibacterial mouthrinse is another way to help keep
tooth decay at bay.
- Eat a nutritious and well-balanced diet. Choose a variety
of nutritious foods from the five main food groups: grain, dairy, fruits,
vegetables and meat/poultry.
- Visit the dentist at least every six months for oral health checkups
and professional cleaning.
- Contact your dentist immediately if you notice any symptoms of
periodontal disease, as early detection is key. Symptoms of periodontal
disease include red, swollen or tender gums or gums that bleed easily or are
pulling away from the teeth; chronic bad breath or bad taste in the mouth;
permanent teeth that are loose or separating; pus appearing between the teeth
and gums when gums are pressed; changes in teeth alignment when you bite and
changes in the fit of partial dentures.
About the Pennsylvania Dental Association
Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately
6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association
(ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA’s
mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of
dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients.
PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. Learn more about PDA.