What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is an infection that results in destruction of the soft and hard tissue structures that support the teeth. These structures include the gums, periodontal ligament (connective tissue fibres which attach teeth to bone) and bone. Over time, teeth affected by periodontal disease can become loose and fall out or need to be removed. Early detection and treatment of periodontal disease can prevent this destruction from occurring.
What causes Periodontal Disease?
Plaque, which contains bacteria and their harmful toxins, stick to the teeth if they are not cleaned well. Plaque build up will lead to gingivitis – or early, reversible inflammation of the gums and supporting tissues.
If this plaque is not removed the gums will pull away from the tooth and the pocket between the gum and tooth will trap this plaque. If untreated in its early stage, gingivitis will progress into periodontal disease – irreversible destruction of the gums, periodontal ligament and bone surrounding and supporting the teeth.
How do I know if I have Periodontal Disease?
Most people don’t realise they are suffering from periodontal disease! Periodontal disease is usually a ‘silent’ process – meaning an individual suffering from the disease will generally not experience pain or symptoms.
However, some warning signs that may indicate periodontal disease is present is:
- Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Persistent bad breath (halitosis)
- Loose or separating teeth
- Change in the way the teeth fit together
- Pus between the teeth
How is Periodontal Disease diagnosed?
During an examination, the dental practitioner will check the health of your gums. They will use an instrument called a periodontal probe to measure the depth of the pockets between the teeth and gums. When gums are healthy, the pockets depths are around 3 millimetres or less. When periodontal disease is present, the gums will develop deeper pockets. These deeper pockets can indicate that infection is causing damage to the soft and hard tissue structures surrounding the teeth. Dental x-rays are taken to assess the bone levels supporting the teeth, as well as other problems that may not have been detected with a visual dental examination only.
How is Periodontal Disease treated?
Treatment depends on the severity of periodontal disease present. Your dental practitioner will perform a periodontal screening and advise treatment options available. The overall aim of periodontal treatment is to remove the bacteria (plaque and tartar) built up around the teeth and in the gum pockets. Patients will need to maintain optimal oral hygiene at home for gum healing to occur. Regular recall appointments are scheduled after periodontal treatment is complete to ensure the gum condition has healed and is stable.
Some important points:
- Periodontal disease will NOT resolve by itself
- An individual suffering from bad breath (halitosis) is generally never aware they do…
- The chemicals in cigarettes results in less blood flow to the gums – this means smokers may experience less gum bleeding, but this does not mean their gums are necessarily healthy. In fact, smoking is a major cause of periodontal disease!
- Flossing and cleaning between the teeth is VERY important – often periodontal disease is more severe between the teeth.