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Periodontal Disease 

Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding a tooth.  There are two type of periodontal disease:  gingivitis and periodontitis.  Gingivitis is an infection and inflammation of the gums around the neck of a tooth.  And periodontitis is an infection of the ligament and bone surrounding the root of a tooth.

What causes periodontal disease?

Gingivitis develops when plaque builds up around a tooth and creates a sticky layer which causes a gum infection.  If you have gingivitis, the infected gum around your tooth would be red, swelling, and bleeding.  On the other hand, periodontitis develops when gum infection is left untreated for a prolonged period of time.  Infection and the resulting inflammation leads to the loss of ligaments and bone around the root of your tooth.

Here are the factors that increases the risk of developing periodontitis:

  • Genetics
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Medications (such as anti-seizure, blood pressure, and immunosuppressant medications)
  • Stress
  • Poor oral hygiene

What can you do to minimize your risk of periodontal disease?

To minimize your risk of developing periodontal disease, visit your dentist regularly for checkups and treat gum infections as early as possible.  Gingivitis can be reversed with good oral hygiene.  However, periodontitis is irreversible, but often manageable.  The following non-surgical periodontal therapy may be recommended by your dentist:

  • Root cleaning (scaling and root planing) at the appropriate intervals to manage your risk for bone loss
  • Antibacterial mouth rinses
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Customized home care instruction
  • Quit smoking
  • Re-contouring of gum and bone around affected teeth to allow better access for professional root cleaning and daily home care

How can an existing bite affect periodontal disease?

Bite problems on periodontally affected teeth can lead to accelerated periodontal disease and the loosening of teeth.  If signs of a bite problem are present, the following may be considered to balance your bite and relieve excess pressure on periodontally involved teeth:

  • Bite therapies including deprogramming and equilibration
  • Orthodontic re-positioning of teeth
  • Replacement of worn or damaged teeth and/or fillings
  • Replacement of missing teeth
  • Use of a custom-fitted bite guard to protect from grinding or clenching forces

What will happen if I do nothing about my periodontal disease?

Periodontitis is a progressive disease that leads to increased bone loss, and finally, tooth loss.  This will affect your ability to eat and speak.  There are also mouth-body connections where periodontal disease can lead to or exacerbate cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.  With pregnant women, periodontal disease is strongly linked to preterm, low birth weight.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.