Half of American adults over the age of 30 have periodontal disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In adults over age 65, that number rises to 70%.
Periodontitis, or periodontal disease, is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects gum tissue and the bone supporting the teeth. If untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss, and it has also been linked to diabetes and heart disease. Since you don’t usually have pain with gum disease, you might not even know you have it. Warning signs include:
- Red, swollen tender gums that bleed easily
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste
- Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
Periodontitis is the most severe form of gum disease. Once gum disease has advanced to periodontitis it is no longer as easily treatable as the early form – gingivitis. For this reason, you might have to visit your dentist for periodontal maintenance, which is not the same as visiting for a basic cleaning.
Cleaning techniques for advanced gum disease include scaling and root planing. Scaling is the process of scraping off the tartar from above and below the gum line, while root planing gets rid of rough spots on the tooth root where germs and bacteria gather. It is generally a more in-depth cleaning and may require a topical anesthetic, depending on the severity of your gum disease.
If you think you might have gum disease, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible! The sooner you treat it, the more likely you are to avoid painful complications. Your dentist will also want you to continue your treatment for gum disease at home. Twice-daily brushing and nightly flossing will be imperative to maintaining your gums!