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Home > Dental Conditions > Gum Disease > Periodontal Disease Symptoms and Treatment
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Periodontal Disease: Symptoms and Treatment


What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal literally means "around the tooth." Periodontal or gum diseases are serious infections affecting the tissues surrounding the teeth. These tissues include the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Gone unchecked, periodontal disease can result in tooth loss.

Periodontal disease is usually a slow, painless, progressive disease. Most adults with periodontal disease are unaware they have it. However, if diagnosed and treated early, the teeth can be saved.

What Causes Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss.

The main cause of periodontal disease is the accumulation of plaque bacteria. Plaque is often a colorless mass of bacteria that sticks to teeth, crowns, bridges, and other tissues in the oral cavity. Plaque is constantly forming on the teeth. Plaque irritates the gums, causing them to become red, tender and swollen.

If not removed daily, plaque becomes the hard material known as tartar or calculus. Calculus cannot be removed by brushing and flossing alone. A dentist, periodontist, or dental hygienist must remove it manually to stop the disease process.

With time, the tissues that attach the gums to the teeth are destroyed by plaque and it's by products. The gums pull away from the teeth, and pockets begin to form between the teeth and gums. Plaque and calculus continue to fill these pockets until the jawbone supporting the teeth is eventually destroyed.

Other factors can modify how your gums react to plaque or calculus, thereby altering your body's response to the disease and affecting your overall health:

  • Smoking/Tobacco Use
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • Medications
  • Clenching or Grinding Your Teeth (Bruxism)
  • Pregnancy and Puberty
  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Immunosuppression (ie leukemia or AIDS)

How is it Treated?

Chances are that if you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, periodontal oral surgery may be recommended. Surgery is indicated when non-surgical methods are not enough to stop the disease process.

Depending on how advanced your particular case is, treatment may involve any of the following:

Scaling and root planing involves the removal of the plaque and calculus deposits on the tooth surfaces, while root planing is the smoothing of the root surfaces in order to promote reattachment of the gum tissue to the tooth.

Flap surgery allows the periodontist to gain access to the root of the tooth for removal of plaque, calculus, and diseased tissue. The gum is then carefully sutured back into place. Flap surgery may sometimes be accompanied by minor osseous (bone) shaping or removal in order to ease tissue positioning, facilitate home care and simplify your maintenance appointments.

Guided tissue regeneration (GTR) involves the use of a biocompatible membrane material, often in combination with a bone graft that promotes the growth of lost tissue and bone around your tooth. Not every case is suitable for bone regeneration. Consult your dentist or periodontist.

Periodontal Diseases in the U.S. Population

The latest research shows that 92 percent of us have calculus in our mouths, and three out of every four has calculus beneath the gums, where it causes the most severe damage. Over half of the adults over the age of 35 are already in the early stages of periodontal disease. In fact, periodontal disease is the primary cause of tooth loss after the age of 35.

Statistics taken from:

  • Oliver, Brown and Loe, Journal of Periodontology, 1998
  • Albandar et al, 1999, Journal of Periodontology, 1999

What You Can Do

Periodontal health begins at home. Together with the state-of-the-art treatment methods available today, you can be confident your teeth can be saved. But what can YOU do? Here are some tips for maintaining periodontal health at home:

  • Brush your teeth three times daily.
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day.
  • Eat good, well-balanced meals.
  • Avoid sticky, sugary snacks.
  • Examine your mouth for signs of periodontal disease regularly.
  • Visit the dentist for check-ups and dental cleanings at least twice a year.

Your dentist is the first line of defense and best position to detect the early signs of periodontal disease.

Remember, only a dentist can diagnose your dental problems and offer the right dental treatment planning for you. If you need a dentist, call us at 1-866-970-0441 to be connected with one today.

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