What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontitis, also referred to as gum disease or periodontal disease, is a common inflammatory condition that affects the gingival tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. In its most advanced stages, the disease may affect the patient’s jawbone.
Gum disease is often preceded by a bacterial infection of the gum tissue, or gingivitis. Periodontitis occurs when plaque inflames or irritates the gum tissue, or gingiva. This bacterial infection is known as gingivitis and can destroy the gum tissue. If untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss.
Causes of Gum Disease
In general, the primary cause of gum disease is plaque. However, numerous factors can contribute to periodontitis:
- Poor oral hygiene – Preventing gum diseases start with a balanced diet and good oral hygiene. Without proper dental hygiene, the gums and bones around the teeth will become inflamed or irritated and result in periodontitis.
- Hormonal changes – Women undergoing pregnancy, puberty, menopause, and menstruation are prone to gingivitis because their gums are more sensitive.
- Smoking – Smoking and periodontal diseases go hand in hand. According to studies, smoking is one of the critical factors in the development and progression of periodontitis.
- Family history – 30% of the population has a strong genetic disposition towards oral and gum diseases.
- Illnesses – Cancer, HIV, diabetes, and other medical conditions can exacerbate or accelerate the progression of gum disease.
- Medication – If you’re using contraceptives, anti-depressants, steroids, and other medicines, they can affect the condition of your gums and make them more vulnerable to periodontal diseases.
What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?
Gum diseases can progress without pain or obvious signs. However, you can observe warning signs, which include:
- Red, swollen gums
- Receding gums
- Painful gums
- Bleeding gums during or after brushing
- Development of pockets between the teeth and gums
- Bad breath / halitosis
- Shifting or loose teeth
Even if you don’t notice any symptoms, it’s still possible that you may have gum disease. Only a dentist or a gum disease specialist can detect and determine the progression of gum diseases.
Types of Gum Diseases
There are several types of periodontal diseases that you should know about.
- Gingivitis – Considered the mildest form of periodontal disease, gingivitis is when your gums are red and swollen, and bleed easily. Fortunately, this is a reversible stage of gum disease.
- Periodontitis – The advanced form of gum disease, periodontitis affects the gum tissue, gum line, teeth, and even the jawbone. Periodontitis progression can lead to loss of teeth and jawbone atrophy.
- Chronic Periodontitis – Refers to the inflammation of the teeth’ gingival tissues and bone loss. This is the most common form of periodontitis with symptoms such as gingival pockets and gum recession.
- Systemic Periodontitis – Refers to the development of gum diseases caused by medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory disease.
Diagnosis of Periodontal Diseases
Gum diseases are diagnosed during a periodontal examination, which is typically part of a regular dental check-up. A small dental instrument called a periodontal probe is used to measure the space between the gum and tooth. The probe helps the dental professional to determine if the pockets are more than three millimeters, which indicates progression.
Treatment for Gum Diseases
Below are some of the most common treatments for periodontal disease:
- Scaling and Root Planing – This procedure involves removing the source of the infection. The pockets will be cleaned and antibiotics for periodontal disease treatment will be used.
- Pocket Elimination Surgery – Also known as flap surgery, pocket elimination surgery is the procedure used to gain access to the pocket between the teeth and gums to prevent bacterial growth.
- Dental Implants – In the case of tooth loss, dental implants may be used to restore the look and function of the mouth.
After the treatment of periodontal diseases, it’s recommended for the patient to perform gum disease maintenance. One of the most common maintenance steps is good oral hygiene practices. In some cases, a recall interval may be suggested to preserve the results of the treatment. During cleaning appointments, the pockets will be checked to ensure that they’re healthy. Any residual plaque will be removed during cleaning.