What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is a chronic inflammation and infection of the gums and tissue surrounding the teeth. It is the major cause of about 70 percent of adult tooth loss and it affects three out of four persons. Periodontal disease is directly related to both heart disease and stroke.
What causes periodontal disease?
Bacterial plaque – a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on the teeth – is recognized as the primary cause of periodontal disease. If plaque is not removed each day through brushing and flossing, it hardens into a rough, porous substance called calculus (also known as tartar). Toxins (poisons) produced and released by bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. These toxins cause the breakdown of the fibers that hold the gums tightly to the teeth creating periodontal pockets, which fills with even more bacteria and toxins. As the disease progresses, pockets extend deeper and the bacteria are able to move down until the bone that holds the tooth in place is destroyed. The tooth will eventually fall out or require extraction.
Are there other factors?
There are other factors that govern the onset of periodontal disease; genetics is a factor as are lifestyle choices. A diet low in nutrition can diminish the body’s ability to fight infection. Smokers and chewing tobacco users have more irritation to gum tissues than those who don’t, while stress can also affect the ability to ward of disease. Diseases that interfere with the body’s immune system, such as leukemia and AIDS, may worsen the condition of the gums. In patients with uncontrolled diabetes, where the body is more prone to infection, gum disease is often more severe and more difficult to control.
What are the warning signs of periodontal disease?
There are many warning signs of periodontal disease, which include red, swollen or tender gums, bleeding while brushing or flossing, gums that pull away from the teeth, loose or separating teeth, puss between the gum and tooth, persistent bad breath, change in the way the teeth fit together when the patient bites, and a change in the fit of partial dentures. While patients are advised to check regularly for the warning signs, there might not be any discomfort until the disease has spread to a point where the tooth cannot be saved. That is why patients are also advised to receive frequent dental exams.
What does periodontal treatment involve?
In the early stages, most treatment involves scaling and root planing, removing plaque and calculus around the tooth and smoothing the root surfaces. Antibiotics or antimicrobials may be used to supplement the effects of scaling and root planing. In most cases of early gum disease, called gingivitis, scaling and root planing and proper daily cleaning achieve a satisfactory result. More advanced cases of the disease may require surgical treatment, which involves reflecting and repositioning the gums and then re-contouring the damaged bone. The procedure is also designed to smooth root surfaces and reposition the gum tissue so it will be easier to keep clean.
How do you prevent periodontal disease?
Removing plaque through daily brushing, flossing and regularly scheduled professional cleanings are the best way to minimize your risk of acquiring gum disease.
What is our role?
During your regularly scheduled appointments, we complete a thorough exam of your teeth in order to detect periodontal disease and treat it in the early stages of infection. Oftentimes we can treat more advanced cases of periodontal disease; however, if we believe that the disease requires treatment by a specialist, we will refer you to a specialist (periodontist).
Is maintenance important?
Patients with periodontal disease or a history of the disease should visit us every three to four months (or more, depending on the patient) for spot scaling and root planing and an overall exam. In between visits, they should brush at least twice a day, floss daily, and brush their tongue. Manual soft nylon bristle brushes are the most dependable and least expensive. We have found the most effective electric toothbrushes to be the Braun Oral B and Interplak brushes.
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