Meaning “around the tooth,” periodontal disease affects the gums that surround the teeth and the bones that support them. Plaque that is left to build up on teeth eventually changes from a sticky film into tartar (calculus). Together, plaque and tartar start to break down the gums and bone in the mouth. One common symptom of this disease is red, swollen and bleeding gums.
It is estimated that four out of every five people have some stage of periodontal disease but are unaware of it. Typically, this is because the first stages of the disease are often painless.
Periodontal disease is the number one cause of tooth loss, and it has also been associated with other serious diseases, such as bacterial pneumonia, diabetes, stroke, increased risk during pregnancy and cardiovascular disease. Researchers are currently trying to find out if the bacteria associated with periodontal disease affects the conditions of other systemic diseases, such as those listed. The risk of periodontal disease increases with people who smoke.
You can reduce your risk of periodontal disease through good oral hygiene, a balanced diet and routine trips to our dentists.
What is periodontitis?
Gum disease is categorized by severity. Gingivitis is milder, treatable and reversible early-stage gum disease that affects only the gums. Periodontitis is advanced gum disease, where the inflammation and infection have spread to surrounding tissues.
What causes periodontitis?
Periodontitis is caused by plaque, which unremoved, causes a gum infection which spreads to surrounding tissue. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms daily on our teeth. It reacts with the food we eat to produce acids and toxins that cause tooth decay. Newly formed plaque can be removed by brushing and flossing, but plaque that is not removed hardens into tartar or calculus. This hard layer of tartar forms at and below the gumline and cannot be removed by brushing. Tartar and plaque combine to accelerate tooth decay and irritate gums. The resulting inflammation and infection of the gums is called gingivitis. Untreated gingivitis creates pockets of plaque, tartar and bacteria between your teeth and gums. This spreads infection below the gums, eventually causing bone and tissue loss. This condition, known as periodontitis, is the biggest cause of adult tooth loss.
What are the symptoms of periodontitis?
Periodontitis will appear as:
• Red, or reddish-purple swollen, tender gums
• Gums that bleed very easily, even with gentle brushing (blood on toothbrush even with gentle brushing of the teeth)
• Gums that hurt only when touched
• Gums that have a “shiny look”
• Gums that have receded from your teeth
• Continuous bad taste in mouth or bad breath
• Mouth sores
• New spaces between teeth
• Pus between teeth and gums
• Teeth that are loose or a bite that changes
How can I prevent periodontitis?
Periodontitis is advanced gum disease, which results from untreated gingivitis. If you have symptoms of gingivitis, contact us for a thorough examination and treatment. You can reduce the risk of gingivitis greatly by:
• Brushing and flossing regularly
• Quitting tobacco use
• Making regular dental visits for examination and cleaning
Periodontal Disease – Diagnosis
Our dentists or our hygienist can diagnose this disease during a periodontal examination, which is included in your regular dental check up.
A small dental instrument called a periodontal probe is used to measure the space (sulcus) between the teeth and the gums. A healthy sulcus should measure three millimeters or less and it should not bleed. The probe will indicate if the spaces are deeper than three millimeters. Deeper pockets typically indicate a more advanced stage of the disease.
In addition to measuring the sulcus, our dentist will check for inflammation, tooth mobility and other signs that will help in making a diagnosis according to one of the below categories:
The first stage of periodontal disease, gingivitis is characterized by tender, inflamed gums that are also likely to bleed during flossing or brushing.
Plaque build up will eventually harden into calculus, commonly called tartar. This build up will cause the gums to recede away from the teeth, creating deep pockets where bacteria and pus can grow. At this stage, the gums are very irritated and bleed very easily. Beginning stages of bone loss may also be seen with periodontitis.
As the gums, bone and other supporting ligaments are destroyed by periodontal disease, the teeth lose their strong anchoring. As a result, the affected teeth will start to become loose and may even fall out. Bone loss at this stage can be anywhere from moderate to severe.
What can Sinking Spring Family Dental do about periodontitis?
As with a case of gingivitis, your dentist or their dental hygienist will give your teeth a thorough cleaning above and below the gums. This will usually include a process called scaling, where the dental professional uses instruments to scrape the tartar off teeth below the gumline. Scaling is followed by a smoothing procedure called planing to make sure there are no rough surfaces to continue irritating the teeth. Since the infection is more widespread, we may also need to perform surgical procedures to get below the gumline, to graft tissue on the gums, and to rebuild the bone lost to infection. We can further describe the procedures and the techniques available for making patients comfortable during the appointments.
Why is it important to treat periodontitis?
Periodontitis is the major cause of adult tooth loss. Not only are your gums, teeth and the bones of your jaw at risk, but the infection and bacteria from periodontitis can lead to heart disease and stroke, and pregnancy complications. Inhaling bacteria from your mouth can also cause pneumonia. If you have any symptoms of gingivitis and periodontitis, contact Sinking Spring Family Dental for a thorough examination and treatment.
Periodontal Disease – Maintenance
If plaque is not removed within 24 hours after it forms on your teeth, it turns into tartar. Regular home dental care helps prevent the formation of plaque and tartar, but hard-to-reach places need to be cleaned regularly by our dentist to ensure all plaque build up is removed.
After receiving treatment for periodontal disease, it’s very important to receive regular maintenance cleanings from a dentist or hygienist. These cleanings will provide our dentist the perfect opportunity to check the sulcus and ensure that your teeth and gums are healthy. Plaque and tartar that haven’t been removed by your daily cleaning efforts will be taken care of during this cleaning. You should schedule these check ups about four times a year.
Your periodontal cleaning and examination will also include:
• Examination of diagnostic x-rays
• Examination of existing restorations
• Examination of tooth decay
• Teeth polishing
Regular periodontal cleanings combined with good oral hygiene habits will help you to maintain good dental health, and they are effective preventive measures against the return of periodontal disease.