Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adult dental patients and should be taken seriously. Many patients with this condition do not know it until symptoms progress to advanced stages of disease.
Before you begin the following self-test, it’s important to know that, in general, women are at greater risk for developing periodontal disease because of hormone changes during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. The chances of developing periodontal disease also increase with age. If you smoke, you should be aware that you may experience slower healing, deeper gum pockets, faster bone loss and more calculus (tartar) deposits on the teeth than non-smokers.
This self-test is not intended as a substitute for dental advice or a comprehensive periodontal assessment. Instead, being able to identify common risk factors related to gum disease helps individuals understand the importance of seeking an evaluation by their dental health professional.
Bleeding is one of the most common general symptoms of periodontal disease. Unexplained bleeding while brushing and flossing teeth is a sure sign something is amiss and needs prompt attention by a health professional.
Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria that infect soft tissue and damage supporting structures around teeth over time. As bone and soft tissue are compromised due to infection, the teeth become less firmly attached and may wobble, shift or fall out completely.
Gum recession is a highly visible warning sign of periodontal disease. If teeth appear longer than before, gums may be receding as bacteria and debris deepen periodontal pockets around teeth. While some gum recession is expected as we age, soft tissue problems resulting from periodontal disease cause a significant and quick recession.
Heart disease, high stress, diabetes, osteoporosis and osteopenia are all linked to periodontal disease. Medications taken for these illnesses can also render the gums more sensitive to bacteria commonly found in the mouth.
Despite a rigorous oral hygiene routine, 30% of the population may be genetically predisposed to developing gum disease. Periodontal disease can also be spread through bacteria found in saliva. When saliva is passed through common contact, couples and children are at additional risk for gum disease.
A personal history of gum problems, such as general soft tissue irritation and inflammation, increases the risk of advanced periodontal disease six-fold.
Daily brushing and flossing reduces amounts of harmful oral bacteria and keeps calculus formation to a minimum. However, periodontal disease can progress without any noticeable symptoms, so it is essential to get a dental check-up and professional cleaning twice a year. This professional cleaning removes tartar and assists in maintaining better gum health over time.
If you have completed the self-test and found yourself to be at risk or have more questions regarding periodontal disease, please ask your oral health professional about treatment for soft tissue infection and how to prevent additional gum problems.