Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal treatment is necessary when various conditions affect the health of your gums and the regions of your jaw bone that hold your teeth in place. Retaining your teeth is directly dependent on proper periodontal care and maintenance. Healthy gums enhance the appearance of your teeth, like a frame around a beautiful painting. When your gums become unhealthy, they can either recede or become swollen and red. In later stages, the supporting bone is destroyed, acute infections can develop that require antibiotics to control, and your teeth will shift, loosen, or fall out. These changes not only affect your ability to chew and speak, but also negatively impact your smile.
Periodontal disease is inflammation of the gums that gradually destroys the support of your natural teeth. Periodontal disease affects one or more of the periodontal tissues: alveolar bone, periodontal ligament, cementum, or gingiva. While there are many diseases which affect the tooth-supporting structures, plaque-induced inflammatory lesions make up the majority of periodontal issues, and are divided into two categories: gingivitis and periodontitis. While gingivitis may never progress into periodontitis, it always precedes periodontitis.
Dental plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis in genetically-susceptible individuals. Plaque is a sticky colorless film, composed primarily of food particles and various types of bacteria, which adhere to your teeth at and below the gum line. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth, even minutes after cleaning. Bacteria found in plaque produce toxins or poisons that irritate the gums. Gums may become inflamed, red, swollen, and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth causing deep pockets (spaces) to form. If daily brushing and flossing is neglected, plaque can also harden into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar). This can occur both above and below the gum line.
If gingivitis progresses into periodontitis, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorates. The progressive loss of bone can lead to loosening and subsequent loss of teeth. Periodontitis is a chronic, inflammatory condition influenced by individual response (genetics). Developing periodontitis usually requires that a person build up bacteria around the teeth and that the person be genetically pre-disposed to having an abnormally aggressive inflammatory response to that bacteria. This extra inflammation is what causes the bone loss. There are social habits that can make it worse, such as smoking tobacco, marijuana, or vape and medical conditions, such as uncontrolled diabetes, that may put you at a higher risk.
Periodontal disease is dangerous in that it is often painless and symptomless. 47% of Americans have periodontal disease, and the percentage increases to 64% at age 65 and over. 4 out of 5 patients with the disease are unaware they have it. It is important to maintain proper home oral care and regular dentist visits to reduce the risk of obtaining this disease. Untreated periodontal disease can also increase risk for kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, and blood cancers, and colorectal cancer.
To provide you with a better understanding of periodontics, we have provided the following multimedia presentation. Many common questions pertaining to periodontics are discussed.