Periodontal Disease

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal Disease is an infectious disease that affects the supporting structures of the teeth. The supporting structures of the teeth include the hard and soft tissue surrounding them, commonly referred to as the gums. Gum Disease and Pyorrhea are some other names for Periodontal Disease.

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How Does Periodontal Disease Progress?

To address Periodontal Disease, periodontal treatment targets plaque and tartar (calculus) deposits that accumulate on the teeth as well as the regions of your jawbone that hold your teeth in place. If left untreated, Periodontal Disease will cause premature tooth loss. Hence, proper periodontal care and maintenance directly affects your ability to retain your teeth. Healthy gums help enhance the natural beauty of your smile, like a frame around a beautiful painting. When your gums become unhealthy, they may recede, swell, redden, or release pus. In later stages of Gum Disease, the supporting bone begins to break down and your teeth can shift, loosen, or fall out. These changes not only affect your ability to chew and speak; they also spoil your smile.

Periodontal diseases gradually destroy the support of your natural teeth with a chronic low grade infection of the gums, as well as your body’s immune system reacting to the presence of bacteria. Your genetic predisposition to the disease may impact the magnitude of the infective process as well as how you immune systems responds to the disease process. In more severe cases, acute or more aggressive infections may make the gums more painful. As with most treatments in dentistry, periodontal treatment has the best success when initiated early. Periodontal disease can affect multiple periodontal tissues including the alveolar bone, cementum, gingiva and the periodontal ligament. While there are many diseases which affect the supporting structures of the teeth, plaque-induced inflammatory lesions make up the majority of periodontal issues, and are divided into two categories: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is less serious and is considered reversible, but it is not known to be self-limiting and may progress to periodontitis, which is much more destructive and may lead to tooth loss. Early detection and early treatment of periodontal conditions are important in maintaining your oral health.

What Causes Periodontal Disease?

Dental plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis in people who are genetically susceptible. Plaque is a sticky colorless film, composed primarily of food particles and various types of bacteria, which adhere to your teeth at and below the gum line. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth, even minutes after cleaning. Bacteria found in plaque produce toxins or poisons that irritate the gums and cause inflammation. Inflamed gums may become puffy, red, swollen, and bleed easily. If this irritation continues, the gums separate from the teeth, causing pockets (spaces) to form. Plaque is a soft deposit on the teeth which is easily removed when you brush and floss your teeth. If you neglect to brush and floss daily, plaque will harden into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar). This can occur both above and below the gum line. Typically, tartar removal requires the assistance of a dental professional.

Not all gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, so treatment focuses on controlling the contributing factors such as plaque accumulation around the teeth. You cannot control your genetic immunity to gingivitis, but you can substantially reduce the risk of periodontitis by controlling your plaque accumulation.  However, even with excellent home care, some people may be more sensitive to the presence of bacteria on their teeth due to an over-reactive immune system or an underlying medical condition, so patients with periodontal disease may not necessarily show its symptoms. If gingivitis progresses into periodontitis, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorates. The progressive loss of this bone can lead to loosening and subsequent tooth loss. As it is often painless and symptomless, many people do not know they have Periodontal Disease, and for this reason, it can be dangerous. Periodontal Disease will afflict 80 percent of Americans by age 45, and four out of five patients with the disease are unaware they have it. It is important to maintain proper home oral care and regularly visit your dentist to reduce the risk of obtaining this disease.

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