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Periodontal Disease

What is gum disease/ Periodontal disease?

The word “periodontal” means “around the tooth.” Periodontal Disease (also known as “gum disease”, “pyorrhea” or “periodontal infection”) is an ongoing bacterial infection in the gums and bone around your teeth. This infection leads to an inflammation under the gums. If it isn’t treated, the inflammation can destroy the bone around your teeth resulting in tooth loss.

Periodontal infection is the cause of 75% of all adult tooth loss.

More importantly, research has associated periodontal infection to several serious medical problems, including; heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

As ongoing research continues to define how periodontal disease is associated with these and other health problems, good oral health is essential. Good periodontal health is a key component of a healthy body.

What can cause a “Brust” of infection activity?

People with periodontal disease have low resistance to periodontal bacteria. This causes an ongoing gum infection that grows in “bursts” of activity. Each time it grows, more support for your teeth bone is lost. Some factors that can cause a “burst” of activity are:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Dental plaque
  • Smoking
  • Genetic factors
  • Stress or tension
  • Diet
  • Medication
  • Illness

Getting Periodontal infection treated right away

When your infection has a burst of activity, or when there are signs that this is about to occur, it is very important that you contact us without delay to schedule a comprehensive evaluation. We will be able to determine the treatment necessary to control your periodontal infection and set you on a path toward excellent oral health. In most cases, we can treat the disease without surgery with early detection.

Symptoms of Periodontal infection

Periodontal infection is usually painless until it reaches an advanced stage. However, there are some symptoms which can indicate the presence of periodontal infection. These include:

  • Red or swollen gums
  • Bleeding when brushing (pink toothbrush), or at other times
  • Aching, itchy, sore or tender gums
  • Receding gums (teeth beginning to look longer)
  • Pus between your teeth and gums when you press down on the gums
  • Bad breath
  • Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Any change in the fit of partial dentures
  • Loose, separating or protruding teeth

If you notice any of the above warning signs of periodontal infection, please contact our office for a periodontal examination.

Important Note: Your gums can look and feel quite normal and yet deep pockets of periodontal infection can still be present. To be certain about any periodontal disease, have your periodontist examine you for signs of infection.

Who is a Periodontist

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease. Periodontists have also taken advanced training in the placement of dental implants. Periodontists receive extensive training in these areas, as part of 3 additional years of education beyond dental school.
Periodontists also provide other treatments, such as crown lengthening, soft tissue grafting and bone regeneration (see the Individual & Cosmetic Procedures section for more information on these procedures).

How is Periodontal disease treated

Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that gets under the gums and into the bone around your teeth, causing inflammation. Periodontal inflammation leads to bone loss and eventual tooth loss and may contribute to other medical conditions. Once a patient is diagnosed with gum (periodontal) disease, more involved procedures are required to treat the disease. In the early stages of gum disease, most treatment involves non-surgical procedures; however, in more advanced stages, surgical procedures are often required. The following are detailed descriptions of these procedures.

Scaling & Root Planing
The upper level of infection in the pockets around your teeth can be removed using specialized instruments. This procedure is called, “Scaling and Root Planing,” “Phase One Treatment” or “Initial Therapy.” It is done under local anesthesia and is quite different from the routine dental cleaning that is traditionally done in the general dentist’s office. Our office is unique in that we use the Perioscope during your root planing to visually confirm that bacterial plaque has been removed.

Does Scaling & Root Planing Hurt?
Depending on the depth of the pocket and severity of the infection, we may suggest that the area be numbed to make the process more comfortable. Many of our patients comment on how easy and painless the procedure ended up being.
If your pockets are not too deep, it may even be possible to do the procedure without numbing. The only sensation will be the scraping feeling on the teeth as the area is cleaned and smoothed.
Once the root surface is cleared of tartar and smoothed, the gums are given a chance to heal and can actually reattach to the root eliminating deep pockets.

Lower Level Infection Removal
If your infection has spread into the bone that supports your teeth and is below the level that can be reached with Scaling and Root Planing, additional procedures may be is necessary to reach and remove this deeper infection. This may also require the use of antibiotics in conjunction with treatment.

The consequences of Periodontal disease

Gum Disease is a Major Cause of Adult Tooth Loss
The majority of adult tooth loss is due to periodontal disease. When your gums and bone are damaged by periodontal infection, there is less support for your teeth. As this support disappears, your teeth first become loose and prone to more damage and infection. This ultimately leads to tooth loss. When your dentist recommends periodontal treatment, it is important to get started right away.

Whole health problems caused by gum disease

Gum disease linked to heart disease
Periodontal disease is no longer thought to be just a dental problem. Researchers are finding many correlations between periodontal infection and serious medical problems. At first it was thought that the increased bacteria in the blood stream was what was causing the medical problems, however, more recent research indicates that it is very likely the inflammation itself that is the cause.
Periodontal disease has been linked with the following diseases and conditions:

Heart disease & Heart attack
Recent studies have shown that people with periodontal disease are 2.7 times more likely to suffer a heart attack.

Studies have also shown that people with periodontal disease are 3 times more likely to suffer a stroke.

Pre-Term Childbirth
Women with periodontal disease are 7-8 times more likely to give birth prematurely to a low birth-weight baby.

Periodontal infection can raise blood sugar in diabetic patients. Periodontal treatment often results in a reduced need for insulin.

Respiratory Disease
Periodontal infection in the mouth can be breathed in and increase the severity of such respiratory diseases as pneumonia, bronchitis and emphysema.

Some Patients Are at Higher Risk
Patients in certain higher risk categories (see below) should pay particular attention to any signs of periodontal disease.
Those patients having a personal or family history of:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Premature childbirth
  • Diabetes
  • Respiratory diseases

Those patients having higher risk lifestyles, including:

  • Chronic stress
  • Smoker
  • Sedentary and overweight

Higher Risk Patients
If you have been told you have periodontal disease (or some of its symptoms) it is vital that you seek evaluation and treatment.