Periodontists undergo advanced training that enables them to diagnose and treat diseases which affect the gums and bone structures around the teeth. According to the National Institutes of Health, about half of all Americans over the age of 30 suffer from some stage of periodontal disease, or periodontitis.
Left untreated, advanced periodontal disease often leads to tooth loss and has even been tied to life-threatening conditions like clogged arteries and strokes. Recognizing when it might be time to visit a periodontist will pay off in improved dental health and a lessened risk of related problems. As a leading periodontal practice in Ocean Springs, MS, we are always ready to diagnose and treat patients who schedule appointments on their own.
Most Common Signs of Periodontal Disease are Easy to Recognize
Fortunately, there should never be a reason to go without appropriate periodontal diagnosis and treatment. Periodontal disease often manifests itself in ways that any appropriately informed person will be able to identify. Some of the most common and telling of these include:
- Bleeding gums. Healthy gums should remain free of bleeding even after brushing or eating almost any type of food. When they bleed or become inflamed, it is often a sign that bacteria have become entrenched below the gum line and started to multiply. Bleeding is the single most common sign of periodontal disease and will be observed at some stage in almost every case.
- Receding gums. After bacteria become established below the gum line, they will begin producing toxic substances that inflame and damage adjacent tissues. Although age, genetics, brushing habits and other factors can also contribute, recession of the gums is another especially common sign of periodontal disease that might require the attention of a trained periodontist. In many cases, this symptom will first be noticed as an apparent “lengthening” of one or more teeth as more of the formerly hidden surface becomes exposed.
- Excessive sensitivity to temperature. When gums recede because of periodontal disease, they can also make the teeth more sensitive to especially hot or cold foods and beverages. Discomfort or twinges of pain felt when eating ice cream or drinking hot coffee could be signs of periodontal problems, with susceptible portions of teeth lacking the layer of enamel that is found on those surfaces that are naturally exposed.
- Bad breath and unpleasant tastes. Certain strong-smelling foods can cause bad breath, but such effects should normally be temporary and isolated. When periodontal disease sets in, on the other hand, bad breath can become chronic and seemingly impossible to address. Some patients even become aware of their own periodontal problems by experiencing an unpleasant taste that can persist even after brushing.
- Loose or shifting permanent teeth. When periodontal disease progresses far enough, the bone and tissue loss that follow can allow the permanent teeth of adults to loosen or even to shift noticeably. This symptom of relatively advanced periodontal disease can also be experienced as an unaccustomed feeling while chewing or even talking. With teeth having moved from their former positions or no longer rooted as firmly, strange sensations in the mouth can be expected.
- Unusual patches, sores, and sensations. Any growth or symptom that could be a sign of oral cancer should be taken as a reason to visit a periodontist, as well. A monthly self-examination for unusual sores, lumps, or off-colored patches in the mouth will make early detection of oral cancer much more likely.
Certain Risk Factors and Conditions Raise the Stakes
Being alert for such symptoms and ready to see a periodontist if they arise will always be advisable. In many cases, a general dentist or dental hygienist will specifically refer a patient to a periodontist upon becoming aware of the development of periodontal disease. Even so, patients can always schedule periodontal checkups on their own.
People with certain health conditions should also be especially alert about these matters. In particular, conditions including the following can make the development of periodontal disease more likely or increase the associated risks:
- People who suffer from diabetes typically have higher levels of sugar in their saliva than others. This nutrient serves as food for the bacteria that cause periodontitis and will allow them to become established and multiply more rapidly. The circulation problems that often come with diabetes can also make it more difficult for the body to ward off periodontal disease.
- Cardiovascular disease. Researchers have established a fairly clear link between periodontitis and increased susceptibility to heart conditions. At the same time, those who already suffer from cardiovascular problems may be put at increased risk of life-threatening events if they develop periodontal disease later on.
- Osteoporosis and osteopenia. The weakening and loss of bone that characterize osteoporosis and osteopenia can multiply the damaging effects of untreated periodontal disease. As many of the older people who are most susceptible to these conditions will also be at particularly high risk of periodontitis, regular periodontal screenings can be productive.
- Hormonal changes that happen throughout pregnancy can encourage the development of periodontitis. A number of studies have also tied periodontal disease to problems with pregnancy, including an increased risk of miscarriage or premature delivery and low birth weight.
- Weakened immune system. A strong, healthy immune system will normally be able to fight back, to some extent, against the bacteria that cause periodontitis. People with weakened immune systems can become much more susceptible to periodontal disease, whether because of chronic conditions, cancer treatment, or drugs given to make the acceptance of organ transplants more likely. Periodontal disease will also stress the immune system itself, making it especially important to treat in any such situation.
Being familiar with the most common symptoms, correlated health conditions, and risk factors will make it easy to judge when the time has come to see a periodontist. A call to Gulfside Periodontics at 228-875-1881 is all that it takes to arrange for a checkup and any treatment that might be needed. Diagnosing and treating periodontal problems as early on as possible always makes successful management and recovery more likely.