What is Periodontal Disease?

The term "periodontal" means "around the tooth". Periodontal disease (also known as periodontitis and gum disease) is characterized by red, swollen and bleeding gums.

Periodontal disease is most often preceded by gingivitis which is a bacterial infection of the gum tissue.  A bacterial infection affects the gums when the toxins contained in plaque begin to irritate and inflame the gum tissues.  Once this bacterial infection colonizes in the gum pockets around and between the teeth, it becomes much more difficult to remove and treat.  Periodontal disease is a progressive condition that eventually leads to the destruction of the connective tissue and supporting bone around the teeth.  If let untreated, it can lead to shifting teeth, loose teeth and eventually tooth loss.

Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world and should always be promptly treated.  Four out of five people has periodontal disease and don't know it!  Most people are not aware of it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages.

Not only is it the number one reason for tooth loss, research now suggests that there is a link between periodontal disease and other diseases such as stroke, bacterial pneumonia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and increased risk during pregnancy.

Smoking also increases the risk of periodontal disease.

Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.

Diagnosis

Periodontal disease is diagnosed by your dentist or dental hygienist during a periodontal examination.  This type of exam should always be part of your regular dental check-up.

Your dentist or hygienist will use pocket depths, amount of bleeding, inflammation, tooth mobility, etc., to make a diagnosis that will fall into a category below:

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease.  Plaque and it's toxin by-products irritate the gums, making them tender, inflamed and likely to bleed.

Periodontitis

Plaque hardens into calculus (tartar). As calculus and plaque continue to build up, the gums begin to recede from the teeth.  Deeper pockets form between the gums and teeth and become filled with bacteria and pus.  The gums become very irritated, inflamed, and bleed easily.  Slight to moderate bone loss may be present.

Advanced Periodontitis

The teeth lose more support as the gums, bone, and periodontal ligament continue to be destroyed.  Unless treated, the affected teeth will become very loose and may be lost.  Generalized moderate to severe bone loss may be present.

Treatment of Periodontal Disease

There are many surgical and nonsurgical treatments the dentist may choose to perform and/or recommend, depending upon the exact condition of the teeth, gums and jawbone.  A complete periodontal exam of the mouth will be done before any treatment is performed or recommended.

Here are some of the more common treatments for periodontal disease:

Scaling and root planing: In order to preserve the health of the gum tissue, the bacteria and calculus (tartar) which initially caused the infection, must be removed.  The gum pockets will be cleaned and treated with antibiotics as necessary to help alleviate the infection.  A prescription mouthwash may be incorporated into daily cleaning routines.

Tissue regeneration: When the bone and gum tissues have been destroyed, regrowth can be actively encouraged using grafting procedures.  A membrane may be inserted into the affected areas to assist in the regeneration process.

Pocket elimination surgery: Pocket elimination surgery (also known as flap surgery) is a surgical treatment which can be performed to reduce the pocket size between the teeth and gums.  Surgery on the jawbone is another option which serves to eliminate indentations in the bone which foster the colonization of bacteria.

Dental implants: When teeth have been lost due to periodontal disease, the aesthetics and functionality of the mouth can be restored by implanting prosthetic teeth into the jawbone.  Tissue regeneration procedures may be required prior to the placement of a dental implant in order to strengthen the bone.

Maintenance

Plaque that is not removed from your teeth will turn into calculus (tartar)! Daily home cleaning helps control plaque and tartar formation, but those hard-to-reach areas will always need special attention. 

Once your periodontal treatment has been completed, your dentist or dental hygienist will recommend that you have regular maintenance cleanings (periodontal cleanings). At these cleaning appointments, the pocket depths will be carefully checked to ensure that they are healthy.  Plaque and calculus that is difficult for you to remove on a daily basis will be removed from above and below the gum line.

Good oral hygiene practices and periodontal cleanings are essential in maintaining dental health and keeping periodontal disease under control!

If you have questions or would like to make an appointment, please give The Dental Salon a call today at (562) 591-4028.