The word periodontal means "around the tooth." Periodontal disease attacks the gums and the bone that support the teeth. Plaque is a sticky film of food debris, bacteria and saliva. If plaque is not removed, it turns into calculus (tartar). When plaque and calculus are not removed, they begin to destroy the gums and bone. Periodontal disease is characterized by red, swollen and/or bleeding gums.
Four out of five people have periodontal disease and don't know it! Most people are not aware of it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages.
Signs and symptoms of periodontal disease:
- Bleeding gums – Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
- Loose teeth – Also caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (fibers that support the tooth to the bone).
- New spacing between teeth – Caused by bone loss.
- Persistent bad breath – Caused by bacteria in the mouth.
- Pus around the teeth and gums – Sign that there is an infection present.
- Receding gums – Loss of gum around a tooth.
- Red and puffy gums – Gums should never be red or swollen.
- Tenderness or Discomfort – Plaque, calculus, and bacteria irritate the gums and teeth.
Treatment for Periodontal Disease:
There are many surgical and nonsurgical treatments the periodontist may choose to perform, depending on the exact condition of the teeth, gums and jawbone. A complete periodontal exam of the mouth will be done before any treatment is performed or recommended.
Here are some of the more common treatments for periodontal disease:
- Scaling and root planing - In order to preserve the health of the gum tissue, the bacteria and calculus (tartar) which initially caused the infection must be removed. The gum pockets will be cleaned and treated with antibiotics as necessary to help alleviate the infection. A prescription mouthwash may be incorporated into daily cleaning routines.
- Tissue regeneration - When the bone and gum tissues have been destroyed, regrowth can be actively encouraged using grafting procedures. A membrane may be inserted into the affected areas to assist in the regeneration process.
- Pocket elimination surgery - Pocket elimination surgery (also known as flap surgery) is a surgical treatment which can be performed to reduce the pocket size between the teeth and gums. Surgery on the jawbone is another option which serves to eliminate indentations in the bone which foster the colonization of bacteria.
- Dental implants - When teeth have been lost due to periodontal disease, the aesthetics and functionality of the mouth can be restored by implanting prosthetic teeth into the jawbone. Tissue regeneration procedures may be required prior to the placement of a dental implant in order to strengthen the bone.
Ask your dentist if you have questions or concerns about periodontal disease, periodontal treatment or dental implants.