Periodontal Disease

Plaque build-up, crooked teeth, illness, poorly fitting dentures, trapped food particles and certain medications can irritate or destroy your gums. With good oral hygiene, however, you can prevent gum (periodontal) disease. If caught in the early stages, gum disease is easily treated. If ignored, the gums and supporting tissues wither and your teeth may loosen and fall out. Knowing the signs and symptoms of periodontal disease is important for early treatment. Pay attention to the following:

  • Swollen red gums that bleed easily (a condition called gingivitis).
  • Teeth that are exposed at the gum line (a sign that gums have pulled away from the teeth).
  • Permanent teeth that are close or separating from each other.
  • Bad breath and a foul taste in the mouth.
  • Pus around the gums and teeth.

Periodontal disease should be treated by a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in this area of dentistry. Material called tartar or calculus (which is calcified plaque) can form even when normal brushing and flossing are done. The dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar at regular intervals. When periodontitis (pockets of infection and areas of weakened bone) are established, the dentist can treat the problem with surgery or with a process known as “deep scaling”.

Self-Care Tips

  • Make sure to brush and floss your teeth regularly. Use a soft, rounded bristle toothbrush (unless your dentist has told you otherwise). Have your dentist or hygienist show you how to brush and floss your teeth correctly.
  • Eat sugary foods infrequently. When you eat sweets, do so with meals, not in between meals.
  • Finish a meal with cheese because this tends to neutralize acid formation.
  • Include foods with good sources of vitamin A and vitamin C daily. (These two vitamins promote gum health.) You get vitamin A from cantaloupe, broccoli, spinach, winter squash, liver and dairy products fortified with vitamin A. Good vitamin C food sources include oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers and broccoli.

Questions to Ask

Are one or more of the symptoms of gum disease present?

  • Swollen gums
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Teeth exposed at the gum line
  • Loose teeth
  • Teeth separating from each other
  • Pus around the gums and teeth
  • Bad breath and/or a foul taste in the mouth

Yes: See Doctor


Provide Self-Care

Healthy Self: The Guide to Self-Care and Wise Consumerism

© American Institute for Preventive Medicine

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021