Periodontal disease is a common disease that affects the area around the tooth, or the gums that is caused by poor oral hygiene. When plaque and tartar is left untreated, it begins to build up around the teeth, irritating the gums, and eventually creating air pockets that can become bacterial breeding grounds. When these pockets become so enlarged, the tooth may become loose. Periodontal disease is the number one leading cause for tooth loss.
Luckily, periodontal disease can be easily prevented by maintaining good oral hygiene. There are also several treatments to help get your gums back to a healthy state.
Signs and symptoms of periodontal disease:
- Bleeding gums when eating, brushing your teeth, or flossing
- Loose teeth
- New space between teeth which could be caused by bone loss
- Bad breath, often persistent, caused by bacteria in the mouth
- Pus around your teeth and gums which is a sign of infection
- Receding gums
- Red and puffy gums
- Tenderness or discomfort in gums or around teeth
When you visit us for your regular dental checkup, we will do a periodontal examination to determine the health of your gums or if you are at risk for, or have periodontal disease. We use a gentle periodontal probe that examines and measures the space between your teeth and your gums. Healthy gums will measure three millimeters or less from the tooth, and will not bleed when probed. If it should go deeper or bleed, we can determine the stage, or category, of periodontal disease you may fall under.
The three categories of periodontal disease are:
Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontitis where plaque irritates the gums, causing them to become tender or inflamed and possibly bleed.
The plaque on the teeth has hardened and turned into calculus (tartar) and has caused your gums to separate from the teeth. Deep pockets form between the teeth and the gums and become filled with bacteria. The gums will become irritated and bleed easily. Slight bone loss may be present.
The tooth has lost more support, has likely become loose and may even be at risk of falling out. Severe bone loss may be present.
Treatment for periodontal disease is dependent on the severity of the disease. For those who are in the early stages of gingivitis, one or two cleanings should be sufficient.
For more severe cases, a procedure called scaling and root planing may be necessary. In this procedure, the pockets will be cleaned out entirely and the rough spots on the root surface will be smoothed. In many cases, the pockets should close on their own once they are cleaned. If they do not heal on their own, periodontal surgery may be necessary where the size of the pockets will be decreased.
Because it only takes 24 hours for the plaque left on the surface of your teeth to turn to calculus, it is of the utmost importance that you brush at least twice daily and floss regularly. Depending on your specific case, we may request that you have more frequent dental exams.
In addition to your periodontal cleaning and evaluation, your appointment will usually include:
- Examination of diagnostic x-rays. These will help us detect decay, tumors, cysts or bone loss that may have occurred.
- Examination of existing restorations such as fillings or crowns
- Examination of tooth decay
- Oral cancer screening. We will check your face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, cheek tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer
In addition, we may make some oral hygiene suggestions such as electric toothbrushes, periodontal brushes, fluoride, or rinses you can use. Teeth polishing is also an option to remove stains or plaque that can not be removed with brushing or scaling.