What is periodontal disease?

Many people have periodontal disease and it can cause major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth if not treated. 

What causes periodontal disease?

On a daily basis our mouths create bacteria from the food we eat and the liquid we drink. Keeping our teeth clean is a daily challenge but well worth it. When bacteria takes over due to neglectful dental hygiene, mucus and other particles form a sticky, colorless “plaque” on your teeth. Plaque that is not removed will harden and form tartar on your teeth. Once this happens, only your dentist or dental hygienist can remove this pesky tartar.

Often people do not have issues from gum disease until they are in their 30s or 40s. Men are more likely to have gum disease than women. Teenagers rarely develop periodontitis but can develop gingivitis which is the milder form of gum disease. Commonly, this gum disease develops when plaque is allowed to build up along and under the gum line.

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • persistent bad breath or a constant bad taste in the mouth 
  • red, sore and swollen gums
  • bleeding gums
  • pain when chewing food 
  • loose teeth
  • sensitive teeth
  • receding gums or teeth appearing to be longer than usual  

What is gingivitis? 

The longer plaque and tartar stay on your teeth the more damaging it becomes. Bacteria causes inflammation of the gums that is called gingivitis. This problem can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist. The good news here is that this form of gum disease does not include any loss of bone and tissue. 

What is periodontitis? 

When gingivitis is not treated, it can lead to periodontitis which creates inflammation around the tooth. With periodontitis, the gums start to pull away from the teeth while forming spaces or pockets that become infected. Bacteria will increase as the plaque grows below the gum line. These bacterial toxins will break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. After some time, if not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth will be destroyed. The teeth will become vulnerable and eventually fall out or they will have to be removed by your dentist. 

Some big risks to periodontal disease are:

  • Smoking: This habit is one of the biggest risk factors associated with developing of gum disease. Also, smoking lowers the chances for successful treatment after diagnosis.
  • Hormonal changes: These changes to hormonal states in women and girls can make gums more sensitive and make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
  • Diabetes: Those who have diabetes are a higher risk of developing gum disease.
  • Illnesses:  Diseases such as AIDS and cancer along with its treatments can affect the health of the gums.
  • Medications:  Many over the counter and prescription drugs can reduce the flow of saliva which has a profound effect on the mouth. Without enough saliva, a dry mouth can start gum disease. In some cases, medicines can cause abnormal overgrowth of the gum tissue making it difficult to keep teeth and gums clean.
  • Genetic susceptibility:  Some people are more prone to severe gum disease than others.

What can you do to alleviate the problem? 

Nonsurgical Treatment

Treating periodontitis can begin with a nonsurgical treatment called scaling and root planing. Your dentist will start by scraping and removing the plaque and tartar from your teeth. Next, your dentist will smooth away any roughness on the roots to prevent bacteria from settling in again. This procedure can take more than one visit and can often require a local anesthetic to keep everything feeling comfortable. After this treatment, the gums will heal and reattach themselves to the healthy, clean surfaces of the teeth. Within a few weeks, your dentist will evaluate your healing and decide if further treatment is necessary.

Pocket Reduction Procedure

If scaling and scraping do not help the gum tissue then the next step is a periodontal pocket reduction or flap surgery. The patient will receive scaling and root planing, then a procedure that folds back the gum tissue. Your dentist will then remove any lasting infectious bacteria and smooth areas of damaged bone, allowing the gum tissue to reattach to healthy bone.

Gum Grafts

With periodontal disease means the roots may be exposed due to gum recession. A procedure involves gum grafts, where the gum tissue is taken from your palate or from another source and used to cover the roots of one or more teeth. By covering all the exposed roots will help reduce sensitivity and will protect the roots from decay, while further stopping more gum recession and bone loss in the future.

Regenerative Procedures

Bone grafting is a surgical procedure that helps promote the growth of bone that has been destroyed by periodontal disease. This treatment will eliminate bacteria with either natural or synthetic bone in the area of bone loss, along with tissue-stimulating proteins to help your body effectively regrow bone and tissue.

After any treatment, it’s important to maintain meticulous cleaning to keep periodontal disease away. Your dentist will spend time with you making sure you understand proper brushing and flossing techniques at home.