What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is also known as gum disease
Periodontal Disease is an infection and inflammation that affects the tissues and bone that support your teeth. It’s also called gum disease.
A surprisingly wide variety of bacteria are normally found in your mouth. When certain types of bacteria outgrow the others, this starts the process of gum disease.
When your gums are healthy, your gum tissues tightly hug each of your teeth. When you have gum disease, your gums pull away from your teeth. As the gum disease gets worse, the tissues and bones that support your teeth become damaged. Over time, your teeth may fall out or need to be removed. Treating periodontal disease in the early stages can help prevent tooth loss.
What is the connection between gum disease and other health issues?
Gum disease has been linked to some other diseases. People with diabetes or heart disease are more likely to get gum disease. Strokes and high stress also may be related to gum disease. Researchers are still studying these links.
It is important to talk to your dentist if you suffer from any long-term health problem. Together, you can work out an oral care plan for your best oral and overall health.
Warning Signs of Gum Disease
If you notice any of the signs below, see your dentist. However, you can have gum disease and not notice any of these warning signs. That is why regular dental checkups are very important.
• gums that bleed when you brush or floss
• gums that are red, swollen, puffy, or tender
• gums that no longer hug your teeth tightly
• bad breath that doesn’t go away
• pus between your teeth and gums
• feeling that your teeth are loose
• a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
• a change in the way your partial dentures fit
What Causes Gum Disease?
Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that is always forming on your teeth. Bacteria that live in the plaque can make your gums become red, puffy and swollen. When plaque is left on your teeth and gums, it hardens. Hardened plaque is called tartar and can only be removed when your teeth are cleaned in the dental office.
When your gums are red, puffy and swollen, they can start to pull away from your teeth. Spaces called pockets start to form between your gums and teeth. These pockets give bacteria a place to collect and grow. The bacteria in your pockets will cause your gum disease to get worse. These bacteria produce toxins, which causes your body to break down the gum tissues and bone around your teeth.
Stages of Gum Disease:
Your teeth are held in place by gums, bone and connective tissues. Your gums tightly hug your teeth and there is little or no buildup of plaque and tartar on them.
The bacteria in plaque make your gums red, tender and swollen. Your gums might bleed at this stage. You can also have gingivitis and not have any signs of it.
In time, your body responds to the toxins that the bacteria produce by breaking down the gum tissues and bone around your teeth.
Your teeth become loose or fall out or need to be removed by a dentist. Loose or missing teeth can create problems, like making it hard for you to eat the foods you like.
If your gum disease is beyond gingivitis, the first step in treating gum disease usually involves a special deep cleaning called scaling and root planing. This treatment may be done over more than one visit, depending on your personal needs.
Scaling: Your hygienist removes plaque and tartar down to the bottom of each periodontal pocket.
Root Planing: Then, the root surfaces of your teeth are smoothed, or “planed”, to allow the gum tissue to heal and reattach to the teeth.
Our dentists or hygienists may recommend certain medicines to help control infection and discomfort or to aid healing. You may be given pills, a mouth rinse or they may place medication directly into the periodontal pocket after the treatment.
Periodic periodontal cleanings help you stay on top of your gum disease
Once your gum disease is under control, it is very important for you to get dental care on a consistent basis. The periodic cleanings recommended after these treatments are called periodontal maintenance care. These cleanings are more extensive than the standard cleaning and will help you keep your gums healthy. Your periodontal maintenance involves cleanings that are deeper than a normal cleaning in the dental office. With periodic maintenance, the amount of plaque bacteria is lowered. Then, the inflammation can get better, pockets can shrink and your gums can become healthier.
Your gum disease won’t go away on its own
Once your gum disease is brought under control, it is very important that you get dental care on a periodic basis. You have a better chance of keeping your teeth if you do. Your gum disease may get worse if you don’t!
Plan for more visits to the dentist & hygienist
You will need to see your dentist & hygienist more often than other people. The pockets and other issues from your gum disease will make it harder for you to clean plaque from your teeth.
Your hygienist will talk to you about a treatment plan that works best for you, they will recommend a maintenance care schedule that is based on your personal case. Over time, fewer appointments may be necessary. Once your gums are healthy, your hygienist will determine a maintenance schedule based on your clinical evaluations.
Once your gums are healthy, your hygienist will determine a maintenance schedule based on your clinical evaluations.
You may also need special medications than can help control the infection and pain or to help your gums heal. The medicine could be a pill, a special mouth rinse, or a medication that your hygienist places directly into the pocket right after deep cleaning.
You may have sensitive teeth and gums after your treatment
Your teeth and gums may be sensitive after your treatment. This soreness may make you want to avoid cleaning the treated areas. But it’s important to follow your hygienists instructions on home care! If plaque is not removed, root decay may form. Talk with your dentist or hygienist if a special toothpaste or other treatments can lower your tooth sensitivity.
Keep up your oral care at home
It is very important that you brush and floss every day – especially if you are healing from gum disease.
• Brush two times every day for two minutes each time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a toothpaste with fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral that helps keep teeth strong.
• Clean between your teeth every day to remove plaque and bits of food from in between your teeth.
If your gums have pulled away from your teeth, it may be best to use special tiny brushes, picks or wider types of floss and picks to clean between your teeth.
• Your dentist & hygienist may also recommend regularly using a specific mouth rinse.
©2019 American Dental Association