What is periodontal disease? and Warning signs

What is periodontal disease?
In its first stage, known as gingivitis, the gums can become swollen and reddish, and they could bleed. In its more severe form, called periodontitis, the gums can pull away from the tooth, bone could be lost, and the teeth can loosen or even fall out. Periodontal disease is mostly found in adults. Periodontal disease and tooth decay are the two biggest dangers to dental health.

A current CDC report1 provides the following data associated with prevalence of periodontitis in the U.S.:

47.2 percent of adults aged 30 decades and older have some form of periodontal disease.
Periodontal Disease increases with age, 70.1% of adults 65 years and older have periodontal disease.
This condition is more common in men than women (56.4 percent versus 38.4%), those living below the national poverty level (65.4%), those who have less than a high school education (66.9 percent), and current smokers (64.2 percent)

Bacteria in the mouth infect tissue surrounding the tooth, causing inflammation around the tooth resulting in periodontal disease. When bacteria stay on the teeth long enough, they also form a film called plaque, that eventually hardens to tartar, also called calculus. Tartar build-up can spread below the gum line, which makes the teeth harder to clean. Then, only a dental health professional can remove the tartar and stop the periodontal disease process.

Warning signs

The following are warning signs of periodontal disease:

  • Bad breath or bad taste that won’t go away
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Painful chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Any change in the fit of partial dentures

Risk factors

Certain factors increase the risk for periodontal disease:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Stress
  • Heredity
  • Crooked teeth
  • Underlying immuno-deficiencies—e.g., AIDS
  • Fillings that have become defective
  • Taking medications that cause dry mouth
  • Bridges that no longer fit properly
  • Female hormonal changes, such as with pregnancy or the use of oral contraceptives

Prevention and treatment
More serious forms of periodontal disease can also be treated successfully but might require more extensive treatment. Such treatment might include deep cleaning of the tooth root canals below the gums, medications prescribed to take by mouth or placed directly below the gums, and at times corrective surgery.

To help prevent or control periodontal diseases, it is important to:

Brush and floss daily to remove the bacteria that cause gum disease.
See a dentist at least once a year for checkups, or more frequently if you have any of the warning signs or risk factors mentioned previously.
If you can’t afford dental care, then you may be able to find assistance through the following sources:

  • The Health Resources and Services Administration supports a community of “safety net” clinics for folks that qualify for reduced-cost care, and many have a dental practice (toll free: 1-888-275-4772).
  • Most dental colleges possess a practice staffed by the professors and students, in which maintenance is provided based on your ability to pay.
  • Your state dental company could have the ability to refer you to dentists in your area who provide care at a reduced rate.

What is the CDC doing about periodontal disease?
The CDC is currently working with key partner associations like the American Academy of Periodontology and the American Dental Association to improve and sustain surveillance of periodontal disease in the mature U.S. population. The efforts of the CDC include (1) developing steps for use in defense of periodontal disease in the country and local levels, (2) enhancing the validity of prevalence estimates derived from the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) by enhancing the accuracy of the clinical examination protocols utilized in this national survey, and (3) developing simple measures for screening to periodontal disease in clinical settings.

For additional background related to CDC activities, please click on the links listed:

Eke PI, Thornton-Evans G, Dye BA, Genco R. Advances in Surveillance of Periodontitis: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Periodontal Disease Surveillance Project. J Periodontol 11 February 2012: 1–9. View full text.

Eke PI, Page PC, Wei L, Thornton-Evans G, Genco RJ. Update of the Case Definitions for Population-Based Surveillance of Periodontitis. J Periodontol 16 March 2012:1–9. View full text.

Eke PI, Thornton-Evans G, Wei L, Borgnakke WS, Dye BA. Accuracy of NHANES Periodontal Examination Protocols. J Dent Res 2010;89(11): 1208–1213. View abstract

Original Article Can Be Found Here.

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