Periodontal Disease What it is, what causes it, and what to do about it.

Periodontal disease also called Periodontitis or Gum Disease is a bacterial infection that destroys the supporting structures that hold your teeth in place. This bacteria infection has broken through the first line of defense, your gums, and now attacks the ligaments and bone that hold the teeth in the mouth. This is the stage where the bone loss occurs causing the pocket (the space between the gum and the tooth) to deepen and widen. Left untreated, this disease can lead to bone grafts, gum grafts, and ultimately tooth loss.

Signs of Periodontal Disease

Periodontitis is a silent disease. People with the disease rarely experience pain and may not be aware of the problem. Early stages of gum disease are seldom painful with a few warning signs. Some of the early warning signs are slight bleeding when you brush, gums getting a little soft, gums going from a firm pink color to a more reddish color. As the disease progresses you may notice more predominate signs like:

If you have any of the above signs, you could be pretty far along the path of serious Periodontitis with potential loss of teeth.

It is estimated that 85% of the population has some form of gum disease. One of our surgeon generals called it the silent epidemic. It has been a long held belief that periodontal disease was just a dental disease of the teeth and gums. Although periodontal disease may originate in the mouth and gums it is now known that gum disease is a very serious disease of the body and increases the risk of:

  • Heart attacks by as much as 25%
  • Strokes by a factor of 10
  • Controlling type I and type II diabetes
  • Respiratory disease
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Premature births
  • Underweight newborns
  • Digestive disorders

What Causes Periodontitis

The main cause of periodontal disease is bacteria, but the following factors may also affect the health of your gums. Some of the other factors are:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Diet
  • Medications
  • Oral Hygiene
  • ”Plaque

    • Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during pregnancy, puberty, menopause, and monthly menstruation, make gums more sensitive, which makes it easier for gingivitis to develop.
    • Illnesses may affect the condition of your gums. This includes diseases such as cancer or HIV that interfere with the immune system. Because diabetes affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar, patients with this disease are at higher risk of developing infections, including periodontal disease.
    • Medications can affect oral health because some lessen the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on teeth and gums. Some drugs, such as the anticonvulsant medication Dilantin and the anti-angina drug Procardia and Adalat, can cause abnormal growth of gum tissue.
    • Bad habits such as smoking make it harder for gum tissue to repair itself.
    • Poor oral hygiene habits such as not brushing and flossing on a daily basis, make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
    • Family history of dental disease can be a contributing factor for the development of gingivitis.

    As the gum tissue comes into contact with the spreading plaque and calculus, the infection intensifies, swelling and redness can begin, and the gums become weakened and bleeding takes place. Once the bleeding has started the bacteria get an additional source of food and start multiplying at an alarming rate.

    As the bacteria continue to multiply they eat, and as with everything else that eats, there is waste. “The waste of the bacteria is very acidic – so acidic it can eat right through the tooth enamel to the dentin of the tooth and cause a cavity”. The bacteria like to hide between the teeth, on the back of the tongue, and especially in the pockets under the gum line where normal brushing is not going to disturb it. This acidic waste will eat away at the ligaments and bone of the tooth and the gum tissue. Eventually this will cause the tooth to be weakened more and even become loose.

    This acidic waste will also eat away at the gum tissue and your gums may start receding. If not treated, you will eventually lose your teeth and be exposed to the whole host of other diseases that are now linked to Periodontitis.

  • ”Stages

    Periodontal diseases are serious bacterial infections that destroy attachment fibers and supporting bone that hold teeth in the mouth. Approximately 15 % of adults between 21-50 and 30% of adults over 50 have this disease

  • ”How

    Periodontal diseases are serious bacterial infections that destroy attachment fibers and supporting bone that hold teeth in the mouth. Approximately 15 % of adults between 21-50 and 30% of adults over 50 have this disease

    Healthy habits and good oral hygiene are critical in preventing gum disease. Regular and effective tooth brushing and mouth washing, however, are effective only above and slightly below the gum line. Once periodontal disease develops, more intensive treatments are needed.

  • ”Treatment

    The main goal of the treatment is to control the infection and if possible even stop it. The road to recovery may take several months, even if it can be attained. Here are some suggestions:

    • The first step is to implement a good oral hygiene program. But in most cases this will not be enough, especially if you have pockets.
    • Stopping tobacco use will help improve your chances for a successful outcome.
    • Professional teeth cleaning from your dentist every 6 months.
    • Your dentist may recommend a Deep Cleaning (Root Planing and Scaling). This is a painful dental procedure that scrapes the plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line. Root planning gets rid of the rough spots on the tooth root where the bacteria gathers.
    • You may also be a candidate for Flap Surgery, bone and/or tissue graphs and having your crowns lengthened.
    • Use a strong bacteria fighter that can get into the pockets and kill the bacteria.

    At the prospect of losing your teeth, and all the other diseases that are associated with periodontal disease, you need to make an all out effort to overcome. This will take patience and a diligent effort on your part, but the reward can be keeping your teeth and extending your life.

    • Flap Surgery – Lifting back the gums and removing the tartar. Then gums are sutured back in place so that the tissue fits snugly around the tooth again.
    • Bone and Tissue Graphs – replace bone and gum tissue destroyed by Periodontitis
    • Crown Lengtheners: Lengthening any crowns to keep bite aligned.
    • Deep Cleaning (Scaling and Root Planing)
    • Perio Maintenance – Checks, cleanings and x-rays every 3 months