How can I tell if I have gingivitis or periodontitis (gum disease)?
Four out of five people have periodontal disease and don’t know it! Most people are not aware of it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages. Unlike tooth decay, which often causes discomfort, it is possible to have periodontal disease without noticeable symptoms. Having regular dental check-ups and periodontal examinations are very important and will help detect if periodontal problems exist.
Periodontal disease begins when plaque, a sticky, colourless film of bacteria, food debris, and saliva, is left on the teeth and gums. The bacteria produce toxins (acids) that inflame the gums and slowly destroy the bone. Brushing and flossing regularly, and properly, will ensure that plaque is not left behind to do its damage.
Other than poor oral hygiene, there are several other factors that may increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:
- Smoking or Chewing Tobacco – Tobacco users are more likely than non-users to form plaque and tartar on their teeth.
- Certain Tooth or Appliance Conditions – Bridges that no longer fit properly, crowded teeth, or defective fillings that may trap plaque and bacteria.
- Many Medications – Steroids, cancer therapy drugs, blood pressure meds, oral contraceptives. Some medications have side effects that reduce saliva, making the mouth dry and plaque easier to adhere to the teeth and gums.
- Pregnancy, Oral Contraceptives, and Puberty – Can cause changes in hormone levels, causing gum tissue to become more sensitive to bacteria toxins.
- Systemic Diseases – Diabetes, blood cell disorders, HIV/AIDS, etc.
- Genetics May Play Role – Some patients may be predisposed to a more aggressive type of periodontitis. Patients with a family history of tooth loss should pay particular attention to their gums.