What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal Disease, also called Periodontitis, is common. But most people don’t know that they have it (especially in the early stages). It is also a MAJOR cause of tooth loss in adults.
GUM DISEASE. Periodontal disease is commonly called “gum disease” by many people.
Periodontal disease is mainly the result of infections and inflammation of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth. In its early stage, gingivitis, the gums can become swollen and red, and they may bleed. In its more serious form, periodontitis, the gums can pull away from the tooth, bone can be lost, and the teeth may loosen or even fall out. Periodontal disease is seen mostly in adults.
Periodontal disease and tooth decay are the two biggest threats to adults’ dental health.
A recent CDC report1 provides the following data related to prevalence of Periodontitis in the U.S.:
- 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease.
- Periodontal Disease increases with age, 70% of adults 65 years & older have some form of Periodontal Disease.
- This condition is more common in:
- Men than women (56.4% vs 38.4%) and
- Current smokers (64.2%)
Because it is not painful, many people are completely unaware that they have it, but there are signs!
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Bleeding when brushing or flossing
- Receding Gums (or longer appearing teeth)
- Sensitive teeth
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Bad breath or bad taste that won’t go away
- Any change in the fit of partial dentures
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth
Who Is At Risk?
Some factors that increase the risk for periodontal disease are:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Female hormonal changes, (pregnancy, oral contraceptives…)
- Defective Fillings
- Crooked teeth
- Underlying immuno-deficiencies
- Heart Disease
- Bridges that no longer fit properly
- Taking medications that cause dry mouth
- Family history / heredity
Getting a Diagnosis
When evaluating your Periodontal health, we will:
- Examine your gums and note any signs of inflammation.
- Use a tiny ruler called a “probe” to check for and measure any pockets around the teeth. This test for pocket depth is usually painless. (In a healthy mouth, the depth of these pockets is usually between 1 – 3 millimeters.)
- Review your medical history with you to identify any conditions or risk factors (such as smoking or diabetes) that may contribute to gum disease.
- Take an x-ray to see whether there is any bone loss.
What are the 5 stages of Periodontal Disease, or Periodontitis?
How Can I Prevent Getting Periodontal Disease?
Here are the top 10 ways:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day
- Floss at least once a day.
- Use a WaterPik to complement flossing
- Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings at least twice a year
- Check your meds. Ask your doctor if any meds are predisposing you to Periodontal Disease.
- Use an antiseptic mouth rinse, such as Listerine, at least once a day
- Keep systemic diseases in control
- Keep a healthy diet
- Stay away from tobacco products
- If you grind your teeth while you sleep, wear a mouth guard
What are common Periodontal Disease treatment procedures?
There are no cures for Periodontitis – only ways to treat and maintain it. So, if you have it, and you want to keep your teeth, you’ll need to have to commit to being a successful periodontal patient. This means being dedicated to the suggested home care and periodontal maintenance protocol. Otherwise, the only treatment that is a true cure is extraction with no further treatment.
Common periodontal disease treatment procedures include:
- Oral hygiene instruction and modification:
Sometimes, we can just recommend behavioral modifications with minor Gingivitis. We will give oral hygiene instructions that you can do on your own.
- Scaling and root planing, (also call deep cleaning):
Gingivitis and mild cases of Periodontal Disease can be treated with scaling and root planing, also called deep cleaning. Hand instruments are used remove plaque and tartar around and under the gums. This is done under local anesthesia (numbing).
- Ultrasonic scaling and root planing:
Mild to moderate cases of Periodontal Disease can be treated with ultrasonic scaling and root planing. This is a deep cleaning with an instrument that vibrates at ultrasonic speed to remove plaque and tartar. This is also done under local anesthesia.
If your Periodontal Disease is too far gone, and your teeth have become loose or are beginning to fall out, then extraction is the only remaining option. In some cases, you may be a candidate for a dental implant if there is enough bone that remains. But immediate dental placement after loss of a tooth due to severe periodontal disease is grim. There is usually hardly any bone left. You would very likely need to have bone grafting done before any dental implant treatments could be started.
If you have Periodontal Disease, please don’t be lax about being seen regularly and to adhering a periodontal maintenance protocol just because “it doesn’t hurt”. Routine maintenance is the only way to prevent it from progressing rapidly, eventually resulting in tooth loss.
If you’re a new patient to our office, contact us to request a complimentary consultation. If you’re already on a periodontal maintenance schedule and would like to continue it and join our practice, just call and schedule an appointment with our hygienist, Linda. She is extremely thorough AND very gentle, and has many years of experience under her belt treating patients with this condition. Let us help you stay on top of it.
If you ignore it, it WILL eventually take its toll on your teeth!