Chances are you’ve heard of dental plaque and tartar, but did you know that they consist of living, thriving bacteria that cause periodontal disease, or as it’s more commonly known, gum disease?
At Full Circle Dental Care in Del City, Oklahoma, Samuel Sigmon, DDS, and his team know that plaque and tartar aren’t high on most people’s list of concerns. Gum disease isn’t a conversation starter.
Yet if you want to keep your teeth for the rest of your life, it’s important to know the basics about periodontal disease, how it develops, and the symptoms you should never ignore.
How periodontal disease develops
When you eat carbohydrates, whether it’s toast at breakfast or a cupcake for dessert, the sugars naturally found in carbs mix with saliva and bacteria that live in your mouth. This mixture creates a film, called plaque, that sticks to your teeth.
The bacteria in plaque metabolize sugar and produce acids. Unfortunately, these acids are perfectly positioned to erode tooth enamel and cause cavities, because the sticky plaque holds the acids against your teeth.
At this stage, removing plaque by brushing and flossing can prevent future problems. But if plaque stays on your teeth, it builds up and hardens into tartar. Then plaque and tartar accumulate, bacteria continue to thrive, and before long, the bacteria cause a gum infection. That’s when you have gingivitis.
Gingivitis is the start of periodontal disease. Without prompt treatment, plaque spreads below the gum line. Now the acids and toxins produced by bacteria cause chronic gum inflammation and a more severe form of gum disease develops called periodontitis.
As periodontitis progresses, your gums break down, allowing the infection to invade even deeper. Ongoing inflammation erodes the bones that support your teeth.
5 symptoms of periodontal disease
These are the top-5 symptoms you’ll experience through the progressive stages of periodontal disease:
1. Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard foods
Bleeding gums are the earliest sign of gingivitis. The bleeding occurs when your brush or floss and sometimes from the pressure of eating hard or chewy foods. Getting dental treatment at this stage will prevent more serious gum disease.
2. Red, swollen, or tender gums
As the bacteria cause an infection, your gums may become swollen and appear bright red, dark red, or even slightly purplish. While your gums may feel tender, it’s important to know that the early stages of periodontal disease generally don’t cause pain.
3. Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
The bacteria in your mouth produce foul-smelling waste products that lead to bad breath and can leave a bad taste in your mouth.
4. Gums that are receding or pulling away from your teeth
As periodontitis progresses and breaks down your gums, the gums separate from your teeth. You may not notice this separation, but in many cases, your teeth appear to be longer as your gums recede.
5. Changes in your bite or pain when chewing
When the supporting bone starts to erode, your teeth loosen and their position may slightly shift. As a result, your teeth don't fit together properly when you bite down and you may start to feel pain when you chew.
Why you should never avoid the symptoms of periodontal disease
There’s one compelling reason to pay attention to the symptoms of periodontal disease: Untreated periodontitis causes tooth loss, a problem you can prevent by scheduling a dental checkup as soon as you notice the symptoms. Once plaque hardens into tartar, you won’t be able to remove it with brushing, and you’ll need our team to scale it away.
If you have any questions about dental symptoms or you want to schedule an appointment, call Full Circle Dental Care or schedule your appointment online.