The Very Best Periodontal Disease FAQs

By Dr. James Forester | Nov 10, 2023 | Gum/Periodontal Disease
woman with periodontal disease pointing to bleeding gums

Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, most often develops due to a lack of good daily dental hygiene practices and/or avoiding dental checkups and cleanings. Everyone in your family should attend a checkup and cleaning every six months. These appointments allow us to identify potential problems so they can be treated early. When gum disease is detected and treated in the early stage, patients experience less pain and treatment is less invasive.

In today’s blog, Dr. Forester and our team provide answers to some of the most common periodontal disease questions people search on Google. If you have additional questions or want to schedule a checkup and cleaning, call our Johns Creek dentist’s office at (770) 232-1830.

How many people have gum disease?

Nearly half of people over age 30 have periodontal disease, and for those over 65 years old, the prevalence increases to 70%. Your professional dental care team at Lifetime Smiles, led by Dr. James Forester, will explain what you can do at home to deter periodontal disease. We also provide effective treatment.

Can children develop gum disease?

Yes, though kids don’t develop gum disease as often as adults and it’s rare for a child to develop advanced gum disease until teen years. Be sure to assist and monitor your child’s daily oral hygiene routine until age 8.  

Will gum disease go away on its own?

No. Because gum disease occurs at and below the gum line, you can’t clean it all away by brushing and flossing. The infection resides in periodontal pockets that form between gums and teeth. At a deep cleaning, the hygienist accesses teeth roots below the gum line and clears away infection, plaque, and bacteria. We may also administer antibiotics.

Can I cure my periodontal disease? Can a dentist cure it?

Periodontal disease is a chronic condition, so it is incurable. However, professional treatment will remove bacteria, plaque, and infection so that gums can heal and reattach to the teeth. The patient must practice excellent home hygiene and attend cleanings and checkups as advised to maintain gum health. A lapse in dental hygiene or increasing your risk factors (like using tobacco) can trigger a flare-up of periodontal disease. When this happens, it’s time to visit the dentist again. 

How is gum disease treated?

If we detect periodontal disease at your checkup, your next step is a deep cleaning. This involves not only cleaning the teeth above the gumline, but also just below it, with a procedure known as scaling. An anesthetic is administered for patient comfort. 

Then, the hygienist will conduct root planing, which entails smoothing rough spots on teeth roots. Plaque tends to accumulate on rough ridges of teeth roots, so by eliminating them, the plaque has no place to settle. In some cases, we integrate antibiotic treatment. 

We’ll advise you on the preferred frequency of your follow-ups, but you will probably need cleanings every three months or so until your gums heal. 

What are the health risk factors of gum disease?

Periodontal disease increases risk for these conditions:

  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Diabetes complications
  • Digestive disorders
  • Heart attack
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Premature birth
  • Respiratory problems
  • Stroke
  • Tooth loss

What are the most common symptoms of periodontal disease?

In some situations, patients see the signs of gum disease during their daily home hygiene routine. If you notice any of these symptoms, call Lifetime Smiles for a checkup.

  • Chronic bad breath (not occasional)
  • Gums bleed, swell, and turn red or purple
  • Gums recede (pull away from teeth)
  • Gum sensitivity
  • Pus at the gumline
  • Teeth sensitivity

However, oftentimes patients notice no symptoms, and the dentist is the first to detect gum disease during a checkup. If you have gingivitis, the precursor to periodontal disease in which gums are irritated and on the path to periodontitis, we may suggest improving your daily oral care routine at home. Floss and brush in the morning and evening, and add antibacterial mouthwash.

What are the stages of periodontal disease?graphic of the four stages of periodontal disease

Gum disease begins as gingivitis, the phase in which gums show irritation and susceptibility to infection. In some cases, this condition can be helped by adjusting your daily dental care routine and adding antibacterial mouthwash. Left untreated, gingivitis escalates to early periodontitis, then moderate, then advanced. Due to dead gum tissue and bone loss, advanced periodontitis usually requires treatment by a specialist, a periodontist. 

How does gum disease spread?

Bacteria love warm, dark, moist places because these conditions create an excellent breeding ground. So, when bacterial plaque isn’t cleaned from your mouth twice a day, it irritates the gums. Left for 48 hours, plaque calcifies, hardening into calculus, also known as tartar. Calculus is removable by scraping, not brushing and flossing. It isn’t water-soluble. 

Bacteria in plaque eat away connective tissues on teeth roots, creating gingival pockets that grow deeper as the disease progresses. Eventually, as the bacterial infection worsens, teeth loosen. Gum disease is the biggest cause of adult tooth loss. Eventually, the infection kills gum and bone tissue. Furthermore, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream through any lesion on the soft tissues. For instance, if the bacteria that causes cavities and is found in plaque, S. mutans, enters the bloodstream, it can cause atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

The only way to prevent the spread of gum disease is with deep dental cleanings and excellent home hygiene practices.

Once I’ve had my condition treated with a deep cleaning, will it come back?

Periodontal disease is chronic, meaning incurable. Once you have gum disease, we can bring your gums back to good health, but you’re then susceptible to flare-ups. 

How can I prevent flare-ups of gum disease?

Meticulous daily dental hygiene and checkups and cleanings as advised by Dr. Forester or your hygienist can keep flare-ups at bay. If you neglect good oral hygiene or introduce risk factors, like smoking or heavy alcohol consumption, flare-ups are likely.

Not all risk factors can be eliminated. Hormone fluctuations, the use of an albuterol inhaler, and dry mouth (xerostomia) increase the risk of developing gum disease or having flare-ups. When children enter puberty and in pregnant women, hormone fluctuation is expected. Good daily oral hygiene at home and six-month checkups and cleanings are the best ways to prevent flare-ups, but even that fails if hormones are raging. 

I don’t have gum disease. How can I make certain that I don’t develop it?

Brush your teeth twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste

Floss before evening brushing, accessing every seam (contact) where teeth touch. You can also use a tongue scraper to remove plaque and bacteria from the bumpy surface of your tongue. Adding an antibacterial mouthwash may help, as well, but talk to Dr. Forester before choosing which mouthwash to use. Many mouthwashes contain ethanol, a form of alcohol, which can make xerostomia worse.

Also, visit Lifetime Smiles for a checkup and cleaning every six months or as advised by Dr. Forester or your hygienist. These preventive visits are essential because they allow us to keep watch over your oral health and thwart periodontal disease in the earliest stages. 

Together, We Can Fight Gum Disease and Win!

Call Lifetime Smiles at (770) 232-1830 in Johns Creek today to schedule an appointment. Dr. Forester will conduct a thorough checkup, and our hygienist will conduct a regular cleaning of your teeth. If we detect gingivitis or signs of periodontitis, we’ll suggest appropriate treatment. Dr. Forester and our team welcome new patients and look forward to helping you achieve and maintain excellent oral health and an unforgettable smile.