About Periodontal Disease
Healthy gums enhance the appearance of your teeth, like a frame around a beautiful painting. Periodontal disease is another name for gum disease. The word periodontal literally means “around the tooth. “Gum disease begins when the bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth) produces toxins that cause the gums to become inflamed, turn red, swell and bleed easily.
If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth, causing pockets (spaces) to form. If left untreated, one or more teeth can loosen and ultimately, tooth loss may occur.
In its early form, gum disease damages the teeth, gum tissue and jawbone of more than 80% of Americans by age 45.
While plaque is the primary cause of gum disease, other factors can contribute to it, including:
- Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, 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 that interferes 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 that lessen the flow of saliva can affect oral health. Some drugs can actually cause abnormal gum tissue growth.
- Smoking makes it harder for gum tissue to repair itself.
- Poor oral hygiene, 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.
While there is no cure for gum disease, it can be treated and managed.
What’s A Periodontist?
A periodontist, like Dr. Bonner, is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease, and experts in the treatment of oral inflammation. Periodontists receive extensive training in these areas, including three additional years of education beyond dental school. They are familiar with the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease.
When to See a Periodontist
Periodontal treatment is necessary when various conditions affect the health of your gums and the regions of your jawbone which hold your teeth in place.
Retaining your teeth is directly dependent on proper periodontal care and maintenance. When your gums become unhealthy, they can either recede or become swollen and red.
In later stages, the supporting bone is destroyed and your teeth can shift position, loosen, or fall out. These changes not only affect your ability to chew and speak; they also adversely affect your smile.
Preventing Gum Disease
The best way to prevent periodontal disease (and cavities as well) is by good tooth brushing and flossing techniques, performed daily, and regular professional examinations and cleanings. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home dental care, people still can develop some form of periodontal disease.
Regular dental visits are also important. A professional cleaning at least twice a year is necessary to remove calculus from places your toothbrush and floss may have missed. A full mouth series of x-rays is advised every 2 – 3 years. This will alert us to early bone loss and other disorders of the oral cavity.
A periodontal examination once or twice a year should reveal any incipient or progressive problems. Periodontal Screening and Recording (PSR) using a probe to measure gum pockets, is encouraged. Your periodontist will identify any areas where deep pocketing has occurred, where the health of the gingiva appears compromised, and where there is undue mobility of teeth.
Once gum disease starts, professional intervention is necessary to prevent its progress.
A periodontal evaluation may be the only way to detect periodontal disease, since it often has no symptoms. Once periodontal disease develops, more intensive treatments are needed.