Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
Symptoms of periodontal disease include red and swollen gums, persistent bad breath, and gum recession and loose teeth. Smoking, certain illnesses (such as diabetes), older age, and other factors increase the risk for periodontal disease. If you have periodontal disease, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in treating this condition. If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss and it has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Prevent Periodontal Disease: Practice Good Dental Hygiene
Consistent good dental hygiene can help prevent gingivitis and periodontitis. The American Dental Association recommends that everyone:
- Brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste (be sure to replace toothbrushes every 1 - 3 months).
- Clean between the teeth with floss or an interdental cleaner.
- Eat a well-balanced diet and limit between meal snacks.
- Have regular visits with a dentist for teeth cleaning and oral examinations.
Scaling and root planning is the first approach for treating periodontal disease. This procedure is a deep cleaning to remove bacterial plaque and calculus (tartar). Scaling involves scraping tartar from above and below the gum line. Root planning smoothes the root surfaces of the teeth. Your dentist will reevaluate the success of this treatment in follow-up visits. If deep periodontal pockets and infection remain, periodontal surgery may be recommended.
Periodontal Disease and Heart Disease
Periodontal disease and heart disease are both inflammatory conditions. There appears to be an association between periodontal disease and heart disease, but it is not yet clear if having one condition increases the risk of developing the other. Periodontists and cardiologists recommend that:
- Patients who have periodontal disease and at least one risk factor for heart disease should have a medical evaluation for heart problems.
- Patients who have heart disease should have regular exams to check for signs of periodontal disease.
Review Date: 02/16/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.