Periodontal disease is a progressive condition that should be treated immediately. Below you will find some common questions patients ask about periodontal disease.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is classified as an infection of the soft and hard tissues supporting your teeth. Periodontal disease is caused when plaque begins to build up on the teeth and eventually hardens (also known as tartar). In the initial stages of periodontal disease, the gum tissues become inflamed and there may be some bleeding upon brushing and flossing. This initial stage of periodontal disease is known as gingivitis.
Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment from your dentist and maintaining a regimented routine of at home dental hygiene. If gingivitis is left untreated, the disease can continue to progress. The next stage is known as periodontitis. In this stage of periodontal disease the plaque and tartar build up below the gumline.
Continued irritation and inflammation of the gums occur, this response will create periodontal pockets (increased space between your teeth and gums) that become infected. As periodontitis progresses and worsens, the periodontal pockets get deeper and the bone that supports the teeth begins to be lost. If periodontitis is left untreated, it will eventually lead to loss of teeth.
How Is Periodontal Disease Diagnosed?
During your dental visits, your dentist or hygienist will examine the tissues surrounding your teeth visually, using instruments, and thru radiographs. If inflammation is present or the gums bleed easily that will be the first sign of periodontal disease being present. Further examination will occur using an instrument called a periodontal probe.
This probe can measure the bone height surrounding your teeth. Normal periodontal pocketing is around 3mm. As bone loss and inflammation occurs this number can rise dramatically. Generally a pocket depth above 4 mm along with bleeding is a hallmark sign of the presence of periodontal disease.
Unfortunately for many, gum disease can be a silent disease until it becomes quite advanced. Signs and symptoms of periodontal disease include the following
-Inflamed or tender gums that are red in color.
-Bleeding upon brushing, flossing, or when consuming harder to chew foods.
-Teeth appear longer due to receding gum tissues.
-Loose or moving teeth.
-Development of a dental infection in the gum tissues. Usually presents itself as a pimple. Can also be a sign of an infection related to a bad tooth.
-Sores in the mouth
-Unexplained, chronic bad breath
-A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bring them together.
What Are Typical Periodontal Disease Treatments?
Depending on severity of periodontal disease, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist. A periodontist is a dentist that specializes in the gum and bone tissues of the mouth surrounding your teeth. There are a few options available. These include:
1. Scaling And Root Planing (also referred to as a deep cleaning).
This dental hygiene cleaning will include the normal removal of plaque and tartar but will also smooth the root surfaces that are exposed or just below the gum line. This will help rid the oral bacteria that contribute to the development and progression of periodontal disease.
This type of surgery opens the gum tissues up giving the dentist greater access to teeth, gum tissues, and bone. They can then debride the areas fully along with planing of roots. The tissues will be replaced and allowed to heal. Your dentist may decide a dental bone graft or gingival tissue graft may be necessary as well.
A bone graft will help restore some missing bone to give added support in hopes of saving the affected teeth. A gingival tissue graft will help cover exposed roots to decrease sensitivity as well as give a better cosmetic result following surgery.
What Follows Treatment Of Periodontal Disease?
You will be placed on a maintenance therapy program. This will include oral hygiene instructions for at home along with necessary tools and education. It will also include the possibility of more frequent visits to the dental hygienist for follow up visits to keep the disease state under control. Some patients will require a more frequent schedule.
The normal is every 6 months but for many cases it can increase to every 3 months to keep the disease from progressing further.
Can Periodontal Disease Contribute To General Health Issues?
Clinical studies have given us lots of data that periodontal disease does in fact affect our general health. These issues include:
-Cardiovascular Issues (Heart attack or stroke).
Both periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease are considered chronic inflammatory diseases. The medical community believes that inflammation is probably the factor that associates the two disease states.
-Low Birth Weight Babies and PreTerm Pregnancies
-Difficulty in Controlling Diabetes
Can Children Develop Gum Disease?
It is rare to find periodontal disease in children but it is possible. More so for adolescents and teenagers. This does not mean we should not educate our children on the importance of dental hygiene. Children should be educated and develop a routine to avoid any issues as they get older. The warning signs of periodontal disease include swollen, bleeding gums that are red in color. If your child has these symptoms call your dentist to ensure he/she is cared for swiftly.
What Can Be Done At Home To Prevent Periodontal Disease?
The #1 way to prevent development of periodontal disease is visit your dentist regularly and maintain a diligent schedule of dental hygiene at home. This should include brushing at least 2x per day (recommend after every meal), flossing at least once a day, and using an antibacterial mouth rinse.
Is Periodontal Disease Contagious?
The actual gum disease state is not contagious since it is an inflammatory process. However, the bacteria that causes periodontal disease can be spread thru saliva. This is most often common from mother or father to newborn baby prior to full development of immune system. It has also been shown to have a genetic component. It is believed that approximately 30% of the world’s population may have some genetic susceptibility to the development of periodontal disease.
Modern DNA testing can shed some light on these factors as well. Once such company is called OralDNA. MyPerioPath is used to test for the detection of oral pathogens that cause periodontal disease. MyPerioPath can help provide early detection of oral pathogens to enable the personalized care in treatment of periodontal disease.
Can I Wait To Get Gum Disease Treatment?
The earlier that periodontal disease can be treated the cheaper and easier it will be to manage the outcomes. At the earliest sign of periodontal disease see your dentist and it could just involve a professional cleaning and some dental hygiene instructions. If you wait it could progress to periodontal flap surgery and tooth loss.
What Are The Stages Of Periodontal Disease?
The stages of periodontal disease are as follows:
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