Periodontal disease is a chronic or ongoing infection of the gumline and bone, which supports our teeth. The term periodontics means what is around (peri-) the teeth (-odont). Instead of "gum disease" or "pyrorrhea", we use the term periodontitis which means "what's around" the teeth is inflamed (-itis). The inflammation is a result of bacterial plaque accumulating on the teeth and the effects of bacterial by-products (acids, enzymes and toxins) on the gum tissues.
Periodontal disease can also be related to one's general health. It is well known that a relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes exists where one disease tends to promote the other. All diabetics should be evaluated for periodontal disease in order to enhance their diabetic control. Recent evidence also suggests that the bacterial toxins involved in the inflammation of periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream and affect the heart, lungs, and brain as well as complicate pregnancy.
Plaque lives in everyone's mouth, but problems don't occur unless it stays on the teeth for a prolonged period (days to weeks). Irreversible damage to the gum tissue and bone occurs when the effects of plaque, as well as tartar (hardened plaque), are allowed to continue over months and years. Since plaque lives in everyone's mouth, there is no "cure" for gum disease. There is, however, very effective treatment — especially when the condition is diagnosed and treated early. Our therapy is somewhat different than conventional dental treatment because you, the patient, must participate by keeping your teeth as plaque free as possible by brushing and flossing your teeth. A great deal of time is spent on this aspect of your treatment and we enjoy helping patients learn what it means to have a healthy mouth with clean teeth and healthy gums.
Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease progresses slowly and unfortunately is painless. It is diagnosed by a dentist or dental hygienist with the use of a periodontal probe. This is a slender, blunt instrument used to measure the "pockets" around your teeth. If the gum tissue is healthy, the probe will only slide in 1-3 millimeters (less than 1/8") and you will experience minimal discomfort. If plaque has had an opportunity to begin the changes associated with periodontal disease, the probe may slide in 2-4 times farther (6-12 millimeters) and usually there is some slight discomfort because the tissue is diseased.
Changes in the gumline associated with periodontal disease include redness, swelling, bleeding during eating, brushing or flossing, tenderness or soreness and receding gums. Signs related to teeth include looseness, separation (widened spaces) or a change in the way your teeth bite together. Bad breath and a foul taste can also be a result of periodontal disease. If you note any of the above changes, a periodontal evaluation by your dentist, or a periodontist, is needed so that your condition can be effectively treated.
A referral is not mandatory— you can call our office for an evaluation appointment.
What is a Periodontist?
A periodontist is a dentist who has received advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of problems involving the gum tissues and bone which support the teeth. Also treated are areas of gumline recession, bite problems as well as the placement of dental implants to help replace missing natural teeth.