What is periodontal disease? How is it caused? How can it be treated?
Periodontal Disease - A Closer Look
Periodontal (gum) disease, including gingivitis and periodontitis, is a serious infection that, left untreated, can lead to tooth loss. The word "periodontal" literally means around the tooth. Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth.
If you think you might be experiencing periodontal disease, please make an appointment with Dr. Madison by calling (310)553-2940.
Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth. It begins when the bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth) causes the gums to become inflamed. In the mildest form of the disease, gingivitis, the gums redden, swell and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Gingivitis is reversible with professional periodontal disease treatment and good oral home care.
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself, and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed.
Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed without periodontal disease treatment.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
The main cause of periodontal disease is bacterial plaque, a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. However, factors like the following also affect the health of your gums.
Smoking/Tobacco Use - As you probably already know, tobacco use is linked with many serious illnesses such as cancer, lung disease and heart disease, as well as numerous other health problems. What you may not know is that tobacco users also are at increased risk for periodontal disease. In fact, recent studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease.
Genetics - Research proves that up to 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. Despite aggressive oral care habits, these people may be six times more likely to develop periodontal disease. Identifying these people with a genetic test before they even show signs of the disease and getting them into early interceptive treatment may help them keep their teeth for a lifetime.
Pregnancy and Puberty - As a woman, you know that your health needs are unique. You know that brushing and flossing daily, a healthy diet, and regular exercise are all important to help you stay in shape. You also know that at specific times in your life, you need to take extra care of yourself. Times when you mature and change, for example, puberty or menopause, and times when you have special health needs, such as menstruation or pregnancy.
During these particular times, your body experiences hormonal changes. These changes can affect many of the tissues in your body, including your gums. Your gums can become sensitive, and at times react strongly to the hormonal fluctuations. This may make you more susceptible to gum disease. Additionally, recent studies suggest that pregnant women with gum disease are seven times more likely to deliver preterm, low birth weight babies.
Stress - As you probably already know, stress is linked to many serious conditions such as hypertension, cancer, and numerous other health problems. What you may not know is that stress also is a risk factor for periodontal disease. Research demonstrates that stress can make it more difficult for the body to fight off infection, including periodontal diseases.
Medications - Some drugs, such as oral contraceptives, anti-depressants, and certain heart medicines, can affect your oral health. Just as you notify your pharmacist and other health care providers of all medicines you are taking and any changes in your overall health, you should also inform your dental care provider.
Clenching or Grinding Your Teeth - Has anyone ever told you that you grind your teeth at night? Is your jaw sore from clenching your teeth when you're taking a test or solving a problem at work? Clenching or grinding your teeth can put excess force on the supporting tissues of the teeth and could speed up the rate at which these periodontal tissues are destroyed.
Diabetes - Diabetes is a disease that causes altered levels of sugar in the blood. Diabetes develops from either a deficiency in insulin production (a hormone that is the key component in the body's ability to use blood sugars) or the body's inability to use insulin correctly.
According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 16 million Americans have diabetes; however, more than half have not been diagnosed with this disease. If you are diabetic, you are at higher risk for developing infections, including periodontal diseases. These infections can impair the ability to process and/or utilize insulin, which may cause your diabetes to be more difficult to control and your infection to be more severe than a non-diabetic.
Poor Nutrition - As you may already know, a diet low in important nutrients can compromise the body's immune system and make it harder for the body to fight off infection. Because periodontal disease is a serious infection, poor nutrition can worsen the condition of your gums.
Other Systemic Diseases - Diseases that interfere with the body's immune system may worsen the condition of the gums.
Types of Periodontal Disease
There are many forms of periodontal disease requiring treatment. The most common ones include the following.
Gingivitis - Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease. It causes the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good at home oral care.
Mild Periodontitis - If gingivitis, the mildest form of periodontal disease, is left untreated, it can advance to periodontitis. In the mild stage, periodontal diseases begin to destroy the bone and tissue that support the teeth.
Moderate to Advanced Periodontitis - Moderate to advanced periodontitis develops if earlier forms of the disease like gingivitis and mild periodontitis are left untreated. This is the most advanced form of the disease in which extensive bone and tissue loss occurs.
Juvenile Periodontitis - Localized juvenile periodontitis (LJP) occurs in adolescents and is characterized by the rapid loss of bone around permanent teeth. Ironically, youngsters with LJP form very little dental plaque or tartar. Generalized juvenile periodontitis is often considered a disease of young adults, although it can begin around puberty.
It is characterized by marked inflammation and heavy accumulations of plaque and calculus. Pockets can form around the affected teeth, filling with infection. If not treated early, infection can lead to bone loss which may cause the teeth to become loose.
Diagnosing Periodontal Disease
You may not realize that persistent swollen, red or bleeding gums, tooth sensitivity, and bad breath are warning signs of periodontal disease. While we can determine if you do have this problem, here are ten questions you can ask yourself about the warning signs behind periodontal disease so that you can seek treatment.
Methods of Periodontal Disease Treatment
If you're diagnosed with periodontal disease, your periodontist may recommend periodontal surgery to correct and prevent problems. Periodontal disease treatment or surgery is necessary when your periodontist determines that the tissue around your teeth is unhealthy and cannot be repaired with non-surgical treatment.
Depending on the severity of your periodontal disease, some of the following periodontal disease treatments may be prescribed:
Pocket Reduction Surgery
Soft Tissue Grafts
Dental Implants (if you've already lost a tooth due to periodontal disease)
At Beverly Hills Periodontics, we offer the most advanced periodontal disease treatment techniques available for safe and effective management of periodontal issues.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Madison, please call (310)553-2940.
For more information on periodontal disease or to set up an appointment to discuss options, please contact us for a consultation.