What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal (gum) disease is also known as periodontitis. It is an infection of the gum and bone tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth. In fact, it is a leading cause of tooth loss. Moreover, about 50% of the American population has periodontal disease.
What causes periodontal disease?
Most often, a buildup of plaque on the teeth causes periodontal disease. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria. Normally, with proper oral care, it can be brushed and flossed away. However, when left on the teeth, plaque bacteria grow and produce toxins. Also, it hardens and causes tartar. Moreover, tartar cannot be removed through brushing at home. As a result, the plaque stimulates an immune response which causes the body to attack itself. Together, the plague and the immune response destroys the gums and bone holding the teeth.
Although plaque is the most common cause of periodontal disease, lifestyle and/or genetics plays a role. Therefore, risk factors include:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Systemic diseases such as diabetes
- Medications such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs and calcium channel blockers
- Pregnancy or use of oral contraceptives
- Crooked teeth
- Worn bridges or fillings
What are the stages of periodontal disease?
Interestingly, periodontal disease is also known as the silent disease. That is because in cases of early-stage periodontal disease, there are no noticeable symptoms. However, gum damage is occurring.
The early stage of gum disease is gingivitis. During this stage, the gums become red, swollen and bleed easily.
As the disease progresses, patients experience:
- Gums that are red, swollen, tender, bleed easily or have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- Loose or separating teeth
- Pus coming from the gums
- A change in the way the teeth fit together
- A change in the fit of partial dentures
What happens if periodontal disease goes untreated? Can periodontal disease hurt you? What can periodontal disease lead to? What systemic disease is associated with periodontal disease?
If left untreated, the infection continues. Bone levels decrease and the gums will retract to the level of the bone. Consequently, the teeth appear “long” with roots showing. Eventually, the tooth (or multiple teeth) will fall out.
If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then the mouth is the window to overall health. Studies have shown that prolonged periodontal disease is associated with various disorders including:
- Heart Disease
- Respiratory Disease
- Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes
- GI tract Infections
Is periodontal disease reversible?
It depends on the stage! Once significant bone damage has occurred, it is irreversible. Even though it is irreversible, treatment is required to stop further damage and decrease inflammation.
How do you diagnose periodontal disease?
Once symptoms are detected, a periodontist usually performs a series of tests. For example, Dr. Camacho and Dr. Rosenbaum will take X-rays and perform an exam with a dental probe. The probe determines bone damage. Also, the dentist may request the patient’s full medical history and look for underlying conditions.
How do you treat periodontal disease?
A patient is normally referred to a periodontist to treat periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is treated based on its severity and progression. Treatments may include:
1. Scaling And Root Planing
This deep-cleaning method removes bacteria from below the gum line and the tooth root.
Antibiotics may be used to fight infection and reduce the size of the gum pockets that have occurred because of the periodontal disease.
3. Surgery (Laser or traditional)
If other methods of treatment are ineffective, laser or traditional surgery will be performed. With the use of lasers, bacteria can be killed. Also, lasers have tissue regeneration properties. If lasers do not work, then traditional surgery will be performed.
In addition to traditional or laser surgery, gum or bone grafts may also be performed to help regenerate any bone or gum tissue loss.
How do you prevent periodontal disease?
In conclusion, good oral hygiene reduces the risk of developing gum disease. This includes thoroughly brushing the teeth at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day.
Also, regular dental checkups and cleaning are necessary to maintain dental health.