What Is Periodontal Disease?
The U.S. National Institute of Health has found that half of Americans over the age of 30 have bleeding gums. Interestingly enough, many people think it is normal to have bleeding gums. We have to think of our teeth and gums, as we do with any other part of our bodies. If our hands, feet or ears were bleeding, we would be concerned. The same holds true for our teeth and gums.
Bleeding gums are early signs that your gums are infected with bacteria. If you choose to ignore this and not do anything, this can spread and destroy the gums ligaments and bone that surrounds our teeth. This can lead to loose teeth and ultimately, the loss of your teeth.
Periodontal disease is caused by various types of bacteria. Believe it or not, it’s our body’s response to the bacteria that causes the problem. In trying to get rid of the bacteria, our immune system releases a substance that causes the swelling. This in turn, causes damage to the ligaments, gums and bone around our teeth. Visiting your dentist regularly and practicing good oral hygiene can help prevent periodontal disease.
It is plaque building on our teeth that allows bacteria to spread under the gum line. It goes to an area where your tooth brush cannot reach and without removal, this will multiply causing serious problems. Once the gums swell, there is a space that is formed between the teeth and the gums. This pocket becomes a great area for bacteria/plaque to accumulate without being bothered. Untreated, damage spreads to the area surrounding the tooth, causing destruction to these areas.
Different signs of periodontal disease include:
- Gum Recession;
- Bad Bread;
- Sores inside your mouth;
- Loose teeth;
- Pain when chewing; and
- Pockets that help bacteria hide.
Unfortunately, once you have periodontal disease there is no cure for it and it is a chronic condition. However, there are different types of treatment that can help maintain and prevent further damage. These include:
- Periodontal scaling and root planning. This is a procedure where your hygienist will scrape off the plaque/tartar off your teeth and below the gum line. They will also smooth out the rough spots on the root of your teeth, which makes it more difficult for bacteria to collect. Sometimes this can cause some discomfort, but the area can be numbed to prevent any discomfort.
- Osseous Surgery. If after scaling and root planning, the pocketing persists, then osseous surgery may be recommended. This surgery is typically performed by a periodontitis. During this procedure, plaque/tartar are removed and the pockets are then stitched closed. This allows the gums to hug the teeth again, removing the pocket.
- Sometimes tissue and bone can be destroyed and need to be rebuilt. This is where your dentist may recommend a graft surgery. This replaces the bone and/or the tissue that has been destroyed.
- After active periodontal treatment, you will then see your dentist every 3-4 months for a periodontal maintenance visit. This type of cleaning is not to be confused, nor is it the same as a regular prophy visit. Patients with a periodontal disease history need deeper cleanings because pockets have formed.
The best way to prevent periodontal disease is to visit your dentist regularly and complete all needed dental treatment. For more information regarding periodontal disease, please visit the American Academy of Periodontology’s website – https://www.perio.org.