|Dr. Alan Wishneff D.D.S.
Restorative Dentistry / Oral Health
August 22, 2015
Periodontal disease is more commonly known as gum disease. Periodontal refers to the area around the tooth. Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone that surround the teeth. This can affect one tooth or many teeth. It all begins when bacteria in plaque causes the gums to become inflamed. Plaque is a sticky, colorless film that regularly forms on teeth. A milder case of periodontal disease is gingivitis. This is when the gums become redden, swell and easily bleed. There is normally little to no discomfort.
Periodontal Disease Causes
Plaque is the primary cause for gum disease. When plaque is left behind on the teeth, it hardens into a rough, porous substance called tartar. The bacteria in plaque release toxins that begin to irritate the gums. The toxins cause the fibers that hold the gums tightly to the teeth to breakdown. This breakdown of the gums produces periodontal pockets that can fill with toxins and bacteria. As the disease progresses, the pockets become deeper and the bacteria move down until it hits the bone. The bone that holds the tooth in place can be destroyed. Eventually a severe infection can develop with pain and swelling. The tooth in the infected area can be loosened and later require removal.
Other factors also contribute to the risk of periodontal disease. People who smoke and use tobacco are at a higher risk of developing gum disease. Changing hormone levels in pubescent teenagers and women who are pregnant are also at increased risk of developing gum disease. Stress, clenching or grinding your teeth, an unhealthy diet, and diabetes can increase your chances of developing gum disease as well. And, in some cases, it’s in your genes—nearly 30 percent of the human population is genetically predisposed to gum disease.
Treatment for Periodontal Disease
In the early stages of gum disease, most treatment procedures involves a special cleaning called scaling and root planing, which removes plaque and tartar around the tooth and will smooth 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, scaling and root planing and proper daily cleaning will definitely help. More advanced cases may require surgical treatment, which involves cutting the gums—sometimes with the assistance of a laser—to remove the hardened plaque build-up and then recontouring the damaged bone. The procedure also is designed to smooth root surfaces and reposition the gum tissue so it will be easier to keep clean. This procedure may be performed by your general dentist or by a specialist, like a periodontist.
How to Prevent Periodontal Disease
The easiest way to prevent periodontal disease is to maintain proper dental care techniques. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day is extremely important. Brushing the teeth helps to remove the plaque from the teeth. Flossing also helps to remove plaque from between the teeth. Professional cleanings also aid in removing plaque that is just too hard to reach. If you go to your dentist at least twice a year, they can help keep an eye out for any problem areas and fix it before it gets out of hand. You also should try to reduce the activities mentioned above (smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, grinding your teeth, and so forth). Periodontal disease is very preventable, so stop it before it gets out of hand.