6 Things to Know About Periodontal Disease

Tuesday March 22, 2016 by
Melissa Brown, DDS

Did you know that your mouth is one of the most vascular parts of your body? That is why it is so important to maintain a healthy mouth. Surprisingly, most people do not give a lot of thought as to how important it is to maintain a healthy mouth, and many usually assume that bleeding gums or bad breath are nothing to be concerned about. Unfortunately, bleeding gums and bad breath can be a sign of periodontal (gum) disease.


The word ‘Periodontal’ is derived from the root word ‘peri’ meaning “around,” and ‘odontal’ meaning “teeth.” This makes sense considering the infection is in the gums that surround the teeth. Periodontal diseases are infections that include the gums, the cementum that covers the root, the periodontal ligament and the alveolar bone. In the early stages of periodontal disease – also know as gingivitis – the infection only affects the gums. In more severe cases, the supporting tissues that we mentioned are involved.


Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in dental plaque. It begins as gingivitis, and if left untreated, can turn into periodontal disease. As a way for your body to rid itself of the bacteria, it releases a substance that inflames the gums, periodontal ligament or alveolar bone. This is why the gums swell and bleed.

Although plaque is the leading cause of gingivitis and periodontal disease, there are some other factors that can lead to it as well, such as:

- Hormone changes – These can happen during pregnancy, puberty, and even menopause
- Illness – Illnesses that cause immune-deficiencies, such as cancer and HIV, can cause an increase in susceptibility to bacteria
- Medications – Some medications can cause a decrease in saliva, therefore making your mouth more susceptible to bacteria growth
- Habits- Smoking can make it harder for gum tissue to repair itself, thus making it easier for bacteria to remain.

Also, not properly brushing, flossing and rinsing can cause gingivitis


The best way to diagnose periodontal disease or gingivitis is to have a dental exam. There are other signs that you can watch for that would indicate the presence of gingivitis or periodontal disease. Since it can develop slowly, taking notice to early signs and symptoms are important.

Here are the signs and symptoms of gingivitis and periodontal disease:

- Bleeding gums that occur during and after brushing your teeth
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Persistent bad breath or a foul taste in your mouth
- Receding gums
- Formation of deep pockets between teeth and gums
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together upon biting down


To accurately detect the presence of gum disease or gingivitis, we will conduct a dental exam. During the exam, we will look for bleeding gums, swelling, firmness, and pockets between your teeth and gums. The larger these pockets are, the more severe the disease. We will also look for tooth movement and proper teeth alignment. Since periodontal disease can affect the ligaments and tissues, this is a strong indicator. Since the disease can progress slowly, we are able to tell how far along the disease has progressed.


If we determine that you have gingivitis or periodontal disease, we will work with you to develop a treatment plan based on the severity of the gum disease. The goal of the treatment is to promote gum reattachment to the teeth, reduce swelling, reduce the depth of the pockets, and decrease the risk of further infection, thus stopping the progression of the disease. Treatments depend on the stage of the disease, but options for treatment do range from non-surgical therapies that control bacteria growth to surgery in order to restore supportive tissues.


Because this disease can progress slowly, we are able to detect it in the early stages when it is just gingivitis. As the disease progresses, you may experience more pain and discomfort, which could require more extensive treatments. This is why we stress the importance of regular dental visits. If we can detect it early on, we can prevent the progression and we can get your mouth back to its health state.

If you are concerned that you may have early signs of gingivitis or periodontal disease, please call our office or schedule an appointment online today! We look forward to helping you feel your very best.