What is Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is a common condition that affects the tissues that surround and support your teeth, including the gums and bone. 

According to a report from the American Academy of Periodontology, periodontitis affects about 45% of adults in North America. 

Periodontal disease is the medical term for gum disease, which is a result of plaque build-up on the teeth and gums. If left untreated, periodontal disease can cause your gums to recede and expose the roots of your teeth, which can lead to tooth loss.

Periodontal disease is most often preceded by gingivitis which is a bacterial infection of the gum tissue. A bacterial infection affects the gums when the toxins contained in plaque begin to irritate and inflame the gum tissues. Once this bacterial infection colonizes in the gum pockets between the teeth, it becomes much more difficult to remove and treat. 

Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world and should always be promptly treated. Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that attacks the gums and bones that hold your teeth in place. Gum disease can lead to bad breath, tooth loss, and even heart disease.

If left untreated, gingivitis can spread below the gum line where it becomes periodontal disease. Plaque is made up of bacteria, food debris, and dead white blood cells. It attaches to the teeth, hardens, and becomes tartar.

Types of Periodontal Disease

As the gums become irritated by the toxins contained in plaque, a chronic inflammatory response causes the body to break down and destroy its own bone and soft tissue. 

A lot of people are walking around with periodontal disease and don’t even know it because most of the time there are no symptoms. Periodontal disease is an infection that causes the gums to separate from the teeth. Without treatment, the disease can cause teeth to loosen and fall out.

Deepening pockets between the gums and teeth are generally indicative that soft tissue and bone are being destroyed by periodontal disease. If you have a disease like periodontal disease, your dentist will probably recommend that you visit a periodontist.

Here are some of the most common types of periodontal disease:

  • Chronic periodontitis – At the bottom of gingival pockets, there’s a thin layer of connective tissue that attaches the gum to the tooth. This layer is known as the Periodontal Ligament. If you have gum recession, you’ll have inflammation within this supporting tissue which causes the pocket to get deeper and deeper.

    The ideal way to determine if someone is a candidate for veneers is to look at their teeth from an angle. It may appear the teeth are lengthening, but in actuality, the gums (gingiva) are receding. This means that the teeth actually need to be made shorter in order to make them appear longer. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums that can occur after a tooth has been exposed due to gum recession.

    If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, which is the most common form of periodontal disease and is characterized by progressive loss of attachment, interspersed with periods of rapid progression.

  • Aggressive periodontitis – Aggressive periodontitis is a form of gum disease that occurs in an otherwise clinically healthy individual. Aggressive periodontitis typically affects people between the ages of 30 and 50; however, aggressive periodontitis can occur at any age. People with aggressive periodontitis have experienced rapid deterioration of their gums and supporting structures of their teeth.

  • Necrotizing periodontitis – Necrotizing periodontitis, also known as “chronic periodontitis” or “aggressive periodontitis,” is a rare form of periodontal disease that most often occurs in individuals suffering from systemic conditions such as HIV, immunosuppression and malnutrition. Necrosis is the death of cells or tissue and it occurs when the body is exposed to bacteria or toxins. In dental terms, necrosis is the death of the periodontal ligament, alveolar bone and gingival tissues.

  • Periodontitis caused by systemic disease – Systemic disease is a form of gum disease that often begins at an early age. Medical condition such as respiratory disease, diabetes and heart disease are common cofactors.

Treatment for Periodontal Disease
The treatment that the periodontist recommends for you will depend upon the exact condition of your teeth, gums and jawbone. In some cases, the periodontist may recommend a nonsurgical approach to treatment in which he or she will clean your teeth and gums and use medication to treat the inflammation in your gums.

Here are some of the more common treatments for periodontal disease:

  • Scaling and root planing – In order to preserve the health of the gum tissue, the bacteria and calculus (tartar) which initially caused the infection, must be removed. The gum pockets will be cleaned and treated with antibiotics as necessary to help alleviate the infection. In addition, the gum pockets will be cleaned and treated with antibiotics as necessary to help alleviate the infection. 

    A prescription mouthwash may be incorporated into daily cleaning routines. One of the most common uses for a prescription mouthwash is as an antiseptic agent. It can also be used to treat mouth sores, ulcers, and gum disease.

  • Tissue regeneration – If the bone and gum tissues have been destroyed, regrowth can be actively encouraged using grafting procedures. Grafting procedures are most commonly used in cases where a tooth is missing, but they can also be used to treat people with periodontal disease. A membrane may be inserted into the affected areas to assist in the regeneration process. Membranes help to speed up the healing process and encourage new tissue growth. This procedure is usually done under local anaesthetic.

  • Pocket elimination surgery – Pocket elimination surgery (also known as flap surgery) is a surgical treatment which can be performed to reduce the pocket size between the teeth and gums.

    Another option to eliminate the indentations in the bone which foster the colonization of bacteria is surgery on the jawbone. The purpose of this surgery is to remove any indentations and smooth out the surface of the jawbone.

  • Dental implants – When teeth have been lost due to periodontal disease, the aesthetics and functionality of the mouth can be restored by implanting prosthetic teeth into the jawbone. Implants are tiny titanium posts that are inserted into the jawbone to provide a foundation for artificial teeth.

    The prosthetic teeth then screw into the implant to replace the missing teeth. Tissue regeneration procedures are sometimes required prior to the placement of a dental implant in order to strengthen the bone. Your dentist will discuss with you whether tissue regeneration procedures are necessary, and if they are, they will help you choose the right procedure for you.

Please contact our office if you have questions or concerns about periodontal disease, periodontal treatment, or dental implants.

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