Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, attacks the gums and the bone that support the teeth. Plaque is a sticky film of food debris, bacteria, and saliva. If plaque is not removed, it turns into calculus (tartar). Plaque and tartar can harbor harmful bacteria that can cause periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is characterized by red, swollen, and bleeding gums and a loss of bone from around your teeth.
Four out of five people have periodontal disease and don’t know it! Most people are not aware of it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages and progresses slowly over time.
Not only is it the number one reason for tooth loss, research suggests that there may be a link between periodontal disease and other diseases such as stroke, bacterial pneumonia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and increased risk during pregnancy. Researchers are determining if inflammation and bacteria associated with periodontal disease affects these systemic diseases and conditions. Smoking also increases the risk of periodontal disease.
Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF PERIODONTAL DISEASE:
Bleeding gums – Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
Loose teeth – Also caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (fibers that support the tooth to the bone).
New spacing between teeth – Caused by bone loss.
Persistent bad breath – Caused by bacteria in the mouth.
Receding gums – Loss of gum around a tooth.
Red and puffy gums – Gums should never be red or swollen.
Tenderness or Discomfort – Plaque, calculus, and bacteria irritate the gums and teeth.
It only takes twenty four hours for plaque that is not removed from your teeth to begin turning into calculus (tartar). Daily home brushing and flossing helps control plaque and tartar formation, but those hard to reach areas caused by the bone loss from past periodontal disease will always need special attention.
Once your periodontal treatment has been completed, your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend that you have regular maintenance cleanings (periodontal cleanings), usually two to four times a year. At these cleaning appointments, the pocket depths will be carefully checked to ensure that they are healthy. Plaque and calculus that is difficult for you to remove on a daily basis will be removed from above and below the gum line.
In addition to your periodontal cleaning and evaluation, your appointment will usually include:
Examination of diagnostic x-rays (radiographs): Essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
Examination of existing restorations: Check current fillings, crowns, etc.
Examination of tooth decay: Check all tooth surfaces for decay.
Oral cancer screening: Check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, cheek tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
Oral hygiene recommendations: Review and recommend oral hygiene aids as needed. (Electric toothbrushes, special periodontal brushes, fluorides, rinses, etc.)
Teeth polishing: Remove stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
Good oral hygiene practices and periodontal cleanings are essential in maintaining dental health and keeping periodontal disease under control!