What is Periodontal Disease?
Contributing Factors for Periodontal Disease
My dentist says I have periodontal disease. What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease (also referred to as “gum disease”) is a chronic infection of the gum tissue around the roots of the teeth, caused by dental plaque. It’s actually a set of diseases that affect the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. If left untreated, it involves progressive loss of the bone around the teeth which can lead to loosening and loss of teeth, as well as play a role in other health issues.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
Though a build-up of plaque is what begins the periodontal disease process, there are a number of factors which increase the risk, severity and speed of development of the condition:
Smoking - We’ve all heard the reasons to quit smoking, but here’s just one more….
Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for periodontal disease development. It can also lower the chances for successful treatment
Poor oral hygiene – Not going to the dentist for regular cleanings, or improper brushing and flossing techniques, will allow plaque to build up under your gums
Diabetes – If you’re a diabetic, you’re also at higher risk of developing infections, including periodontal disease. Carefully controlling your diabetes can be of significant value when it comes to periodontal disease
Medications – There are hundreds of medication which reduce the flow of saliva to the mouth. The mouth is more vulnerable to infections such as periodontal disease when the protective flow of saliva is reduced.
Heredity – Due to family history, some people are just more prone to periodontal disease than others.
Hormonal changes – Gums can become more sensitive, making it easier for gingivitis to develop.
Clenching or grinding your teeth – Clenching or grinding your teeth can put excess force on the supporting tissues of the teeth and speed up the rate at which these periodontal tissues are destroyed.
How Can I Tell If I Have Periodontal Disease?
Simply put, it’s caused by a build-up of bacteria (plaque) on your teeth that remains in contact with your gums. The bacteria forms toxins which irritate the gums and break down the attaching tissue. This causes a reaction in the gums, which in its early stages is called “gingivitis”. One of the first noticeable signs is gums that bleed easily when touched or flossed.
The infection can then spread to the underlying bone. The longer that plaque remains on the teeth, the more harmful it becomes.
When gingivitis goes untreated, it can advance to “Periodontitis”. When this occurs, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces (called “pockets”) which become infected. Your immune system kicks into gear to fight the bacteria as it spreads and grows beneath the gum line. The bacterial toxins and the body’s natural response to infection break down the bone and connective tissue which holds the teeth in place.
If not treated, the bones, gums and tissue in that area are destroyed, resulting in loose teeth which need to be removed.
Signs of Periodontal Disease
Gum disease is silent…at first. You may not recognize the early symptoms unless you go to a dentist regularly. Plaque and tartar form under the gumline and this can lead to infection. The gums become irritated, and pockets form between the teeth and gums. As the disease advances, it can lead to bone loss and eventual tooth loss.
What If I Just Live With Periodontal Disease?
Any of these symptoms can indicate periodontal disease:
- Gums that are red or swollen, or are tender to the touch and bleed easily.
- Receding gums – some people report that their teeth appear “longer” due to the recession of the surrounding tissue.
- Bad breath that won’t go away, no matter how often you brush or rinse.
- Teeth that have loosened on their own.
- Chewing has become painful in certain areas of the mouth.
- Teeth are sensitive to heat or cold
- Sores in your mouth
- A change in how your teeth fit together
What Can I Expect At My First Exam?
Periodontal diseases, including gingivitis and periodontitis, are serious infections. Left untreated, they can lead to tooth loss and other health problems. The chronic bacterial infections affect the gums and bone supporting the teeth and can affect one tooth, or many. This isn’t something that just “goes away”.
This problem would eventually get worse. You could lose your teeth as well as develop the other potential medical problems that come with it.
Research has shown that there is a connection between periodontal diseases and other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes, the only way to detect periodontal diseases is through a periodontal evaluation.
A periodontal evaluation may be especially important if you have any of the conditions listed above.
Click play below for perio-systemic connections animation.
My Dentist Referred Me. Now What?
As someone who’s potentially at risk for periodontal disease, we feel it’s important to give you all the facts on available treatment. By working together, we can help to reduce the impact of this disease as well as give you the best outcome possible for your situation.
What Can I Expect At My First Exam?
At this initial appointment, we will examine your teeth and gums to evaluate the extent of your periodontal disease. Your gums are checked for bleeding, swelling, firmness and abnormalities. Teeth are checked for looseness and sensitivity. Other factors, such as your bite, will also be assessed.
Periodontal probings are recorded. These probings consist of 6 different measurements around each tooth, which help the doctors determine the severity of your particular case and to further help in planning your treatment. A set of x-rays may also be taken to detect any breakdown of the bone surrounding your teeth.
Following the exam, we’ll discuss the extent of your periodontal disease and potential treatment options. Some treatment options include home care, non-surgical therapy, and, in some cases, surgery. After answering all of your questions, we’ll work together to determine which plan works best for you.