Learn About Periodontal (Gum) Disease

The infection of the gum and tissues that surround and support your teeth is called Periodontal or Gum Disease. It is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults. Since periodontal disease is usually painless in its early stages, patients may not be aware that they have a problem. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque, the bacterial film which continually forms on your teeth.

Signs & Symptoms of Periodontal Disease

  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Red, swollen, tender gums
  • Gums that have receded away from the teeth
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
  • Permanent teeth that are loose or spreading apart
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit or come together when you bite
  • Any change in the fit of a Partial Denture

Factors that Increase the Risk of Periodontal Disease

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Genetics
  • Crooked teeth that are hard to keep clean
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Certain medications such as steroids or anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives

Different Stages of Periodontal Disease

The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. The gums are typically red, slightly swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can often be eliminated by a professional cleaning, followed by effective brushing and flossing on a daily basis. Advanced gum disease is called Periodontitis (inflammation of the tissues that support the teeth). Chronic Periodontitis can lead to the loss of tissue and bone which maintain the teeth. In its more advanced stages, the teeth will feel loose and become uncomfortable to chewing pressure, and ultimately require extractions. Periodontitis is most common in adults, but it can occur at any age. Even though the disease progresses slowly, there can be periods of rapid advancement. Aggressive Periodontitis is a highly destructive form of periodontal disease that occurs in patients who are otherwise healthy.

Common signs include rapid loss of tissue and bone which may occur in specific areas of the mouth, or the entire mouth. Research between systemic disease and periodontal diseases is ongoing. While a link is not conclusive, many studies indicate that gum disease may be associated with several other health conditions such as diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease. It is important to treat Periodontal Disease in its early stages, since by the time the disease becomes uncomfortable, the supporting gum and bone tissues have already been lost.

Treatment and Prevention

In order to minimize your risk of periodontal disease, brush your teeth twice a day, floss or use a water pik/flosser daily, eat a balanced diet, avoid tobacco products and schedule regular dental cleanings and exams. Treatment options depend upon the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed. Any treatment rendered will depend on excellent and regular home care to prevent a recurrence of the disease.

Regular dental cleanings by a Dental Hygienist or Dentist is the first step in preventing and treating gingivitis (the first stage of gum disease). If regular cleanings prove ineffective in managing Periodontal Disease, then we recommend a non-surgical procedure called scaling and root planing, which removes plaque and tartar around the teeth and smoothes the root surfaces. When indicated, antibiotics or antimicrobials may be used to supplement the effects of scaling and root planing.

More advanced periodontal cases may require surgical treatment, which involves creating a small incision in the gum tissue, removing the hard plaque buildup below the gum line and re-contouring the damaged bone tissues. During surgery the root surfaces will also be smoothed and the gum tissue is re-positioned, which makes it easier to clean the hard to reach areas. Sometimes it’s in a patient’s best interest to be referred to a Periodontist (Gum and Bone Specialist) to help in the treatment of Periodontal Disease, which is more advanced or unresponsive to conventional treatments.