Anna Witanto, D.D.S. -- Family & Cosmetic Dentistry

Dental Facts

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Major Cause of Tooth Loss in Adults is Periodontal Disease

Three out of four adults will experience some form of periodontal (gum) disease, a major cause of tooth loss in adults.

Although it is often referred to as a single disease, there are several types of periodontal disease. All are caused by a bacterial infection that begins as an inflammation of the gums. When left untreated, periodontal disease can destroy the gums, bone and ligaments supporting the teeth. One reason periodontal disease is so widespread among adults is that it is often a painless condition until the advanced stage.

Periodontal disease begins with plaque, a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth and gums. If plaque is not removed regularly, the bacteria create toxins that irritate the gums, making them swollen, red and likely to bleed easily. If left unchecked, the toxins cause gum tissues to detach from the teeth, creating pockets where food particles and more plaque may collect.

The earliest form of periodontal disease is gingivitis. The first symptoms include gums that bleed when brushed or flossed. Other signs of gingivitis may be red, swollen or irritated gums. Proper brushing and cleaning between the teeth with either floss or other interdental cleaners can usually reverse gingivitis.

As periodontal disease progresses, the signs can become more noticeable. These can include: pus under the gumline; teeth that are loose or separating; change in bite or in the fit of partial dentures; or chronic bad breath or bad taste. Anyone experiencing any of these should seek dental care immediately.

Treatment of early gum disease includes meticulous home hygiene and regular professional cleanings. More advanced stages of periodontal disease may require procedures to smooth and clean the deeper surfaces of the tooth's roots and to restructure the tissue around the tooth, thus removing the pockets that hold the bacteria.

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