Periodontal or gum disease is a serious condition that can lead to painful tooth loss. Caused by plaque, a sticky type of bacteria that continuously forms on teeth, periodontal disease can affect the gums and bone that support the teeth.
The most common form of periodontal disease is gingivitis. Typically caused by inadequate oral hygiene, hallmark symptoms of gingivitis include swollen and red gums that bleed easily. Fortunately, gingivitis is reversible with improved oral care and professional treatment.
Gingivitis that isn’t treated can advance to periodontitis when plaque grows below the gum line. Toxins that are produced by the bacteria begin to produce an inflammatory response in the body. This leads to the destruction of tissues and bone that support the teeth. Gums begin to separate away from the teeth, forming pockets between the teeth and gums. This can lead to infection and ultimately tooth loss. There are several different types of periodontitis including aggressive and chronic forms of the disease. While poor dental care is the leading cause of periodontitis, systemic diseases such as heart disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes can also be associated to it. As well, malnutrition and immunosuppression can contribute to its development.
Are You at Risk for Periodontal Disease?
Millions of individuals currently have periodontal disease and don’t know it. Unfortunately, if left untreated, they will eventually experience tooth loss. The key is to watch out for early symptoms of this serious disease:
Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
- Bleeding Gums
- Loose Teeth
- Receding Gums
- Teeth That Look Longer Than They Used To
Along with understanding the symptoms, it’s also important to be aware of any potential risk factors that you may already have for periodontal disease. It is more common in adults over the age of 40 – particularly for individuals who smoke or use tobacco products. In fact, tobacco is one of the most significant factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease. This is because smokers are much more likely to have deeper pockets between their teeth and gums that have formed due to the build-up of calculus (tartar) on their teeth.
Those who do not floss or who aren’t seeing a dentist on a regular basis also have a greater chance of developing periodontal disease. Professional dental cleaning is essential for removing the calculus between teeth that a toothbrush and floss cannot remove.
There is also a family link that can cause periodontal disease because it can be transmitted through saliva. This specifically means that everyday contact of saliva in families puts couples and even children at risk for contracting it from other family members. Current research has proven that nearly 30% of the population is genetically susceptible to acquiring periodontal disease. These individuals are substantially more likely to develop it even with proper oral care habits.
If you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, there are effective treatment options. Non-surgical treatments are typically used first and include scaling and root planing to remove plaque and calculus from periodontal pockets. This is typically followed up with additional therapy such as local delivery of antimicrobials. While many patients do not require any additional treatment, some will need surgical therapy. These treatments include pocket reduction procedures, regenerative procedures, crown lengthening, and soft tissue grafts.