Many people use the terms gum disease and periodontitis interchangeably, but periodontitis is only one stage of gum disease. The phrase refers to all diseases that affect the gingiva, or gums.
Periodontitis can vary in severity from early to advanced and is often treated by a periodontist — a dentist who specializes in treatment and prevention of gum disease — like the doctor.
Gum disease begins with inflammation of the gums, but it can progress to cause damage to the soft tissues and bones in the mouth. Bacteria in the mouth that build up to form plaque and tartar cause the inflammation.
Inadequate oral hygiene is usually the culprit of this bacterial build-up, which leads to inflammation — what’s called gingivitis. Gums with gingivitis become red and swollen, bleed easily, and are sometimes painful. Practicing good oral hygiene and getting regular dental exams and cleanings can usually reverse gingivitis.
If left untreated, gingivitis can deteriorate into periodontitis, when the inflamed gums pull away from the teeth. This forms spaces or pockets where bacteria can gather and cause infection.
The body’s immune response and bacterial deposits start to break down the connective tissue and bone that hold teeth in place. This can result in loss of teeth and destruction to the surrounding bones and gums.
The main goal of any treatment for gum disease at our Hilton Head Island, South Carolina office is to control the infection. Treatment varies, depending on the severity, and may include medication and surgery.
So not all gum disease is created equal, but it is all equally easy to prevent. It's best to avoid the problems of gum disease by:
- Brushing twice a day and flossing regularly
- Getting regular cleanings from your dentist or dental hygienist
- Avoiding activities that harm the gums, such as smoking or chewing tobacco