• Can Periodontal Disease Be Reversed?

    Can Periodontal Disease Be Reversed?

    If you’ve been to the dentist lately, you might have experienced your dentist or hygienist poking your gums in the spaces between your teeth and recording measurements after each poke. All of that prodding was your dentist’s way of checking for periodontal disease.

    Dentists and dental hygienists use a probe, which is essentially a tiny ruler, to check the depth of the pockets between your teeth. If the pockets are too deep, you might have periodontal disease.

    Before we talk about whether or not periodontal disease can be reversed, let’s cover some of the basics about what periodontal disease is, what causes it, and what its stages look like.

    What is Periodontal Disease?

    Periodontal disease is a serious infection in the gums, the tissue holding your teeth in place. This disease can eventually affect your jawbone if not caught and treated, can lead to tooth and bone loss, and is even considered a risk factor for heart and lung disease.

    Though certain behaviors can increase the risk of developing periodontal disease, anyone can be affected by periodontal disease, regardless of age or sex.

    What Causes Periodontal Disease?

    As with most dental issues, periodontal disease usually occurs from a lack of dental hygiene. If you have been skipping your regular brushing and flossing, the bacteria in your mouth may have formed plaque that has been able to build up on your teeth and harden.

    This buildup of plaque, once hardened, becomes tartar, which is impossible to clean on your own. Only a professional cleaning will get rid of tartar, which attacks the tissue holding your teeth in place (your gums).

    Other than a lack of dental hygiene, smoking is a leading cause of gum disease, as is diabetes and other diseases, as well as certain medications that lessen the flow of saliva. Some people also have a genetic predisposition to periodontal disease.

    What are the Stages of Periodontal Disease?

    To understand the level of treatment you might expect for periodontal disease and whether or not it can be reversed, you first have to know in which stage of periodontal disease your gums might be.

    Gingivitis

    Gingivitis is the earliest stage of periodontal disease and the only stage that is reversible. Since this stage has yet to affect the bones, it is mostly painless and can be treated.

    The signs of gingivitis include bleeding while brushing and flossing, occasional bad breath, and redness and swelling of the gums.

    If you notice any of these signs, you should schedule a professional dental cleaning so your dental hygienist can remove any tartar from your gums and teeth, and your dentist can make sure you’re getting the support you need to keep your gums healthy.

    Catching gum disease at this early stage can help you prevent it getting to any of the later stages. At this point, it is possible to reverse the damage and treat your symptoms.

    Slight Periodontal Disease

    The second stage of periodontal disease is not reversible, but you can manage it with help from your dentist. At this stage, you’ll notice swelling and redness of the gums, bleeding while brushing and flossing, bad breath, and deep pockets between your teeth at about 4 or 5 millimeters deep.

    At this stage, the gum disease has already begun to attack the bone, so regular dental hygiene will not be enough to reverse the damage.

    Moderate Periodontal Disease

    The third stage, moderate periodontal disease, is also irreversible and must be treated with deep cleaning procedures known as scaling and root planing.

    At this stage, bacteria has started attacking the bone and could even get into the immune system and bloodstream.

    Probing depths are even deeper at this stage, measuring 6 to 7 millimeters. If left untreated, this stage of periodontal disease can lead to increased bleeding, gum sensitivity, tooth and bone loss, and the shifting of teeth.

    Advanced Periodontal Disease

    The fourth and most advanced stage of periodontal disease can lead to much more serious health problems if left untreated.

    Along with possible gaps between teeth, tooth and bone loss, and other problems in the mouth, advanced periodontal disease can lead to other overall health problems and is a risk factor for heart and lung disease.

    At this stage, periodontal disease will most likely require periodontal surgery or laser therapy to clean the deep pockets between the gums.

    So…Can Periodontal Disease Be Reversed?

    Though gingivitis, the earliest signs of gum disease, can be reversed with dental treatment and proper at-home dental hygiene, once gum disease gets to the level of periodontal disease, it cannot be reversed.

    If you have periodontal disease, all your dentist can do is treat it to try and control the infection. Your dentist may ask you to change some behaviors, like quitting smoking and consistently maintaining proper dental hygiene habits.

    Advanced periodontal disease may require surgery and more advanced cleaning procedures to manage the infection. If left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems, not to mention tooth and bone loss and possibly the need for dentures.

    So, make sure you maintain healthy dental hygiene habits and visit your dentist’s office regularly for professional cleanings. As long as you maintain this level of dental care, you should be able to catch the earliest signs of gingivitis before it gets to the irreversible stage of periodontal disease.

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