How to spot and treat periodontitis
You’ve no doubt heard of gingivitis -- the inflammation of the gums that occurs when plaque and tartar are allowed to build up for too long. In fact, dentists often warn patients that they need to keep brushing and flossing regularly to avoid gingivitis.
The problem here, is that although individuals know that gingivitis leads to puffy, red, sore, and receding gums, they think that it’s a minor problem that can be reversed at any stage with mouthwash and judiciously applied dental floss. Well, that’s true, but it’s only true up to a point. If you don’t make a habit of keeping your teeth clean and healthy, you’ll not only get cavities and develop gingivitis, but you’ll also run the risk of your gingivitis progressing to periodontitis.
What is periodontitis?
When gingivitis goes untreated, periodontitis occurs. In the case of periodontitis, the gums recede from the teeth, pull away, and form open air pockets. These pockets are fertile breeding ground for bacteria. At this point, your immune system declares war on the bacteria.
Unfortunately, on the field of battle of periodontitis, your teeth are the main casualties. The side effect of your immune system trying to fight off all that bacteria is the breakdown of the bones of your teeth and jaw. Your teeth will start to loosen and rot, and they’ll eventually fall out.
How to spot the problem
First of all, you should be visiting your dentist regularly. Regular dental appointments for cleanings and checkups will keep you informed on the health of your teeth and gums. Your dentist will be able to spot gingivitis long before it becomes periodontitis and will make strong recommendations for brushing, flossing, and rinsing.
If you haven’t been to the dentist in some time and suspect that you have periodontitis, take a look at your gums. Do they bleed when you floss? Are your teeth looking longer than they used to (a sign of receding gum lines)? Are you experiencing halitosis? Whether you have these symptoms or not, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment.
If your teeth feel loose and your gums have receded, you likely have periodontitis, and you may actually have to go to a periodontist in addition to a general dentist. Make an appointment for a checkup with your regular dentist first, but be prepared to go see a specialist.
If your periodontitis has not progressed to the point that your teeth are being eaten away, you can treat it with regular professional cleanings and a vigilant dental hygiene regimen at home. Talk to your dental hygienist about recommended oral care products and practices. You may think you know how to brush and floss, but you could be missing something. Your dental hygienist and your dentist can help you out greatly.
If you have let your periodontitis go untreated for too long, you will need to see a periodontist to discuss dental implants and other options for treatment. Keep your teeth clean and your gums healthy, visit your dentist regularly, and you’ll be able to avoid some painful and expensive treatments.
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