Your Guide to Periodontal Disease
How to spot, prevent, and treat gum disease
What Is Periodontal Disease?
There are two main gum diseases that fall under the periodontal disease umbrella, according to Steven Engebretson, DMD, MS, associate professor of periodontology and implant dentistry at New York University's College of Dentistry.
► GINGIVITIS: When bacteria collects around the teeth and gum tissue, the area becomes inflamed. The resulting condition is completely preventable and reversible with good oral hygiene and professional dental care. But if left untreated, it can lead to a more serious condition called periodontitis.
► CHRONIC PERIODONTITIS: Untreated gingivitis can progress to this more serious condition. In response to the inflammation, the body releases substances that break down the connective tissue of the gums and even the bone. This can lead to tooth and bone loss in the jaw. Chronic periodontitis is not reversible, but it can be stabilized with oral care and treatments such as scaling, root planing, and laser therapy or gum graft surgery and pocket reduction surgery. Regenerative procedures—such as bone and tissue grafts—and cosmetic procedures are options, too.
Studies have shown that periodontal disease is more severe in people with diabetes. The good news is that people with diabetes are not necessarily more susceptible to gum disease and can prevent it with good oral hygiene.
Good Dental Habits
Help prevent periodontal disease
- Brush Teeth Daily
TIP Don't use too much pressure while you brush, and avoid firm bristles. These can damage the gums and tooth enamel.
- Floss Daily
TIP Gently slide the floss between two teeth and move it up and down the sides of the teeth, making sure to dip below the gum line.
- Consider Mouthwash
TIP Ask your dentist if you should use a treatment rinse (available by prescription or over the counter—look for words like “antiseptic” on the bottle) to fight decay. Regular mouthwash will just freshen your breath.
- Brush Your Tongue
TIP Your tongue collects bacteria in the same way as your teeth. Be gentle—there's no need to scrub.
- See Your Dentist
TIP In order to prevent or reverse gingivitis, get a professional dental cleaning every six months.
To Stop Periodontitis
You can't reverse the disease, but you can stabilize it.
- If you need treatment, get it. If the periodontitis is severe, you may need to see a periodontist, who specializes in treating gum disease.
- Have a professional dental cleaning every three months, or as directed.
- Make sure you brush and floss on a daily basis.
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