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Gum Disease & Periodontics Questions


Answers to common questions about periodontics and gum disease


What is Periodontics?
Periodontics is the specialty of dentistry focusing exclusively on the inflammatory disease that destroys the gums and other supporting structures of teeth.


What is a Periodontist?
A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease (gum disease). Periodontists are also trained in the placement of dental implants. Periodontists receive three additional years of education beyond dental school. In additional to periodontics, a Periodontist is also trained in cosmetic periodontal procedures, like gum lifts.


What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis is caused by poor oral hygiene and results in chronic inflammation of gum tissue. The risk of gingivitis is that it isn’t typically painful, so a person may not know they have gingivitis. Regular check-ups with a dentist can catch gingivitis early and treat it accordingly. Since gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease (periodontal disease), leaving it untreated can lead to significant problems.


What are the symptoms of gingivitis?
Symptoms of gingivitis include gums that are red, swollen and bleed easily. This early stage of gum disease is reversible through treatments at your dentist and a daily brushing and flossing routine.


What is gum disease?
A leading cause of tooth loss in adults, gum disease (or periodontal disease) is an infection in the tissue that surrounds and supports teeth. Since early stage gum disease is painless (gingivitis), a person can have gum disease and not even know it.


What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is the same thing as gum disease, an infection in the tissue that supports teeth.


What is periodontitis?
Gum disease in its advanced stages is referred to as periodontitis. At the chronic periodontitis stage, a person can experience loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth. As a result, teeth become loose and start moving freely.


What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is often the result of poor oral hygiene. When you don’t brush and floss daily, or don’t maintain regular dental hygiene visits for a thorough cleaning, plaque builds a sticky layer of bacteria on your teeth that slowly attacks your teeth and gums. Other more acute factors that may contribute to gum disease include smoking or chewing tobacco, pregnancy, diabetes, certain medications, and genetics.


What are the symptoms of gum disease?
Symptoms of gum disease include gums that are red, swollen and tender, and that bleed very easily. Continual bad breath and a bad taste in your mouth is another sign of gum disease. A more severe symptom of gum disease is gums that have pulled away from the teeth causing permanent teeth to become loose, causing movement upon biting.


What is a gum lift?
A gum lift is a cosmetic procedure that changes the appearance of a person’s gums. Please visit our cosmetic dentist questions page for more information.


What causes bleeding gums?
There are several reasons your gums may bleed. Some are common, yet some are early signs of a problem that needs to be addressed. For example, if you’ve recently started a new flossing routine, it is common for gums to bleed. This may last a week or two. However, if your gums bleed on a regular basis when you brush your teeth, please consult your dentist. Bleeding gums are an early sign of gingivitis, the early phase of periodontal disease. (Be sure you’re not brushing your teeth so hard that you cause your gums to bleed. Using a soft bristle brush is best.)


What is halitosis?
Halitosis is the clinical term for bad breath.


What causes bad breath?
Bad breath can happen to anyone at any age, and there are many causes. Some are simple, like the foods you’ve eaten, and others, like gum disease, are cause for concern.

Common causes of bad breath:

  • Foods: Strong foods like onions and garlic can remain in your mouth and impact the air you exhale as you breathe. 
  • Poor oral hygiene: If you don’t floss regularly, food particles can remain between your teeth and form bacteria that cause bad breath.
  • Gum disease: Consistent bad breath can be an early sign of gum disease. 
  • Dry mouth: If you have salivary gland problems that cause a lack of saliva in your mouth, food particles aren’t properly broken down and bad breath may result. Similarly, if you take certain medications that cause dry mouth, you may also experience bad breath.
  • Smoking and tobacco usage: In addition to the bad breath caused by smoking, an additional concern for tobacco users is that tobacco usage irritates gum tissues, potentially leading to gum disease (not to mention oral cancer).


How do you get rid of bad breath?
The most effective means of fighting bad breath is to continue a daily oral hygiene routine. That includes brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day. Add to this regular cleanings and exams from your dental team at Dental Associates. The combination of personal care and professional care will reduce plaque build-up on your teeth that causes bad breath.

Mouthwash and chewing gum are generally cosmetic and only address bad breath for a short time. A daily oral hygiene routine is the long-term solution to bad breath.


What is trench mouth?
Trench mouth is a painful bacterial infection in the gums. Symptoms of trench mouth are inflammation and ulcers that cause significant pain. Bleeding from the gums is also very common with trench mouth. The name stems from World War I, when this infection was common with soldiers.