Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal (Perry-o-DON-tal) Disease is an infection that affects the tissues and bone that support your teeth. It is also called gum disease. Gum disease can become a very serious health problem if it’s not treated.
What causes gum disease?
A surprisingly wide variety of bacteria live in your mouth. This is normal. When certain types of bacteria outgrow the others, this starts the process of gum disease.
When your gums are healthy, your gum tissues tightly hug each of your teeth. When you have gum disease, your gums pull away from your teeth. As the gum disease gets worse, the tissues and bones that support your teeth become damaged. Over time, your teeth may fall out or need to be removed.
How it Starts
Plaque is a sticky film that is always on your teeth. When plaque is left on your teeth and gums, it can harden. Hardened plaque is also called tartar (TAR-ter). Bacteria that live in the plaque can make your gums become red, puffy and swollen. Tartar on your teeth makes it hard for you to keep your teeth and gums clean on your own.
When your gums are red, puffy and swollen, they can start to pull away from your teeth. Spaces called pockets start to form between your gums and teeth. These pockets collect more bacteria. As the bacteria stay in the pockets, your gum disease will get worse.
Stages of Gum Disease
Healthy Gums – No Disease Your teeth are held in place by gums, bone and connective tissues. Your gums hug your teeth tightly and there is little or no build up of plaque and tartar on them.
Gingivitis – The bacteria in plaque make your gums red, tender and swollen. Your gums might bleed at this stage. You can also have gingivitis and not notice any of these signs.
Periodontics – In time, as plaque and tartar build up where your teeth and gums meet, plaque bacteria break down the gum tissues and bone around your teeth. As the disease gets worse, bacteria also attacks the bone tissue.
Advanced Periodontitis – Your teeth may become loose and fall out or need to be removed by your dentist. This stage is very serious.
Are you at risk?
Anyone can get gum disease, but there are things that play a role in your chances of getting it. These include:
What is the connection between gum disease and other health issues?
Gum disease has been linked to some other diseases. People with diabetes or heart disease are more likely to get gum disease. Strokes and high stress also may be related to gum disease. Researchers are still studying these links.
It is important to talk to your dentist if you suffer from any long term health problem. Together you can work out an oral care plan for your best oral and overall health plan.
How is gum disease found?
You may not have any signs of gum disease – which is why visiting your dentist regularly is so important. But, there are some common signs of gum disease; if you have any of them you should see your dentist.
- – Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
- – Gums that are red, swollen, puffy or tender
- – Gums that no longer hug your teeth tightly
- – Bad breathe that does not go away
- – Pus between your teeth and gums
- – Feeling that your teeth are loose
- – A change in the way that your teeth fit together when you bite
- – A change in the way your partial dentures fit
How is gum disease treated?
Your gum disease treatment will depend on several factors, including your personal health history and the stage of your gum disease. Your dentist may also refer you to a periodontist – a dentist who specializes in gum disease. A periodontist is also well versed in the surgical treatment of gum disease.
In the very early stages – when it is gingivitis – you may just need a professional cleaning from your dental team. They can also give you some great advice and tips how you can keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Deep Cleaning – Scaling and Root Planing
If your gum disease is beyond gingivitis, you may need a special deep cleaning called scaling (SCAY –ling) and root planing (PLAY–ning).
During your appointment, your dentist will carefully remove plaque and tartar down to the bottom of each pocket. That’s the scaling part of the cleaning.
The next step is to clean and smooth your tooth’s root surfaces. Smoothing the surfaces helps your gum to heal and reattach to the tooth, shrinking the pocket depth. This is the root planing part of the cleaning.