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Periodontal Disease

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The word periodontal means “around the tooth”. Periodontal disease attacks the gums and the bone that support the teeth. Four out of five people have periodontal disease and don’t even know it! This can happen because the disease is usually painless in the early stages. However, even though it is painless, even minor periodontal disease should not be ignored.

Stages of Periodontal Disease

The first stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis. This occurs when the toxic byproducts created by plaque bacteria on your teeth cause your gums to become inflamed.

The next stage is periodontitis. As plaque and tartar 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 at this stage.

The most dangerous stage is advanced periodontitis. During this stage, the teeth lose more support as the gums, bone, and periodontal ligaments 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.

Advanced periodontal disease is the number one reason for tooth loss. Research also suggests that there may be a link between periodontal disease and other diseases such as stroke, bacterial pneumonia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and increased risk during pregnancy.

Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease. Smoking increases the risk of periodontal disease, so giving up smoking can also help improve your oral health.

Signs and symptoms of periodontal disease:

  • Bleeding gums – Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
  • Loose teeth – Loose teeth are caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (fibers that support the tooth to the bone), both of which can be caused by gum disease.
  • New spacing between teeth – This is a sign of bone loss.
  • Persistent bad breath – Bad breath may be a sign that you have an excess of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
  • Pus around the teeth and gums – This definitely suggests that there is an infection present.
  • Receding gums – As your gums become stressed and damaged, they will recede from around a tooth and leave it loose and vulnerable.
  • Red and puffy gums – Gums should never be red or swollen.
  • Tenderness or Discomfort – The high levels of plaque, tartar, and bacteria associated with periodontal disease irritate the gums and teeth.

What does treatment for periodontal disease involve?

Treatment methods depend upon the type and severity of the disease. If the disease is caught in the early stages of gingivitis, and no damage has been done, one to two professional dental cleanings will be recommended. You will also be given instructions on improving your daily oral hygiene habits.

If the disease has progressed to more advanced stages, a special periodontal cleaning called scaling and root planing (deep cleaning) will be recommended. It is usually done one quadrant of the mouth at a time while the area is numb. In this procedure, tartar, plaque, and toxins are removed from above and below the gum line (scaling) and rough spots on root surfaces are made smooth (planing). This procedure helps gum tissue to heal and gum pockets to shrink. Medications, special medicated mouth rinses, and an electric tooth brush may be recommended to help control infection, speed healing, and prevent reinfection.

If the pockets do not heal after scaling and root planing, periodontal surgery may be needed to reduce pocket depths, making teeth easier to clean.

If you have already lost a tooth to periodontal disease, it can be replaced using various restorative dental procedures. You dentist will explain the options available to you.

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