The term “periodontal” means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease (also known as periodontitis and gum disease) is a common inflammatory condition that affects the supporting and surrounding soft tissues of the tooth, eventually affecting the jawbone itself in the disease’s most advanced stages.
Periodontal disease is often preceded by gingivitis which is inflammation of the gum tissue caused by a build up of bacteria. Once pathogenic bacteria colonizes in the gum pockets between the teeth, it becomes much more difficult to remove and treat. Periodontal disease is a progressive condition that eventually leads to the destruction of the connective tissue and jawbone around the teeth. If left untreated, it can cause shifting teeth, loose teeth, and eventually tooth loss.
Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world and should always be promptly treated.
Types of Periodontal Disease
When left untreated, gingivitis (gum inflammation) can spread to below the gum line. When the gums become irritated by the toxins contained in plaque, a chronic inflammatory response causes the body to break down and destroy its own bone and soft tissue. There may be little or no symptoms as periodontal disease progresses which is why it is so important to have regular dental appointments to screen for the disease. One of the ways gum disease and periodontal disease is detected is through deepening pockets between the gums and teeth. Generally gum pockets of 1-3 are healthy, 4 is borderline and 5 or greater are indicative of soft tissue and bone being destroyed by periodontal disease.
Treatment for Periodontal Disease
There are many surgical and nonsurgical treatments the dentist or hygienist may choose to perform, depending upon the exact condition of the teeth, gums and jawbone. A complete periodontal exam of the mouth will be done before any treatment is performed or recommended.
Here are some of the more common treatments for periodontal disease:
Scaling and root planing – In order to preserve the health of the gum tissue, the bacteria and calculus (tartar) which initially caused the infection, must be removed. The gum pockets will be cleaned and treated with antibiotics as necessary to help alleviate the infection. A prescription mouthwash may be incorporated into daily cleaning routines.
Tissue regeneration – When the bone and gum tissues have been destroyed, regrowth can be actively encouraged using grafting procedures. A membrane may be inserted into the affected areas to assist in the regeneration process. This procedure is done by a specialist at a different office.
Pocket elimination surgery – Pocket elimination surgery is a surgical treatment which can be performed to reduce the pocket size between the teeth and gums. Surgery on the jawbone is another option which serves to eliminate indentations in the bone which foster the colonization of bacteria. This procedure is done by a specialist at a different office.
Dental implants – When teeth have been lost due to periodontal disease, the aesthetics and functionality of the mouth can be restored by implanting a prosthetic into the jawbone. Tissue regeneration procedures may be required prior to the placement of a dental implant in order to strengthen the bone. This procedure is done by a specialist at a different office.
Please contact our office if you have questions or concerns about periodontal disease, periodontal treatment, or dental implants.