The mouth is filled with bacteria. Periodontal disease, a type of gum disease, begins when certain bacteria in plaque produce toxins and enzymes that irritate and inflame the gum. This inflammation may be painless but can damage the attachment of the gums and bone to the tooth. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta GA, nearly half of American adults over 30 suffer from some form of periodontitis.
How do I know if I have periodontal disease?
Unlike tooth decay that causes discomfort when advanced, it is possible to have periodontal disease without obvious symptoms. This makes regular dental cleanings and wellness exams especially important. Over a short period of time, plaque buildup hardens into tartar. The tartar provides an ideal home for even more bacteria and plaque. Missing your regular dental cleanings can cause the spread of bacteria and inflammation of the gums as well as bone loss.
Although some patients may not notice symptoms, some signs of periodontal disease include:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from your teeth (you can see tooth roots)
- Persistent bad breath
- Pus between the teeth and gums
- Loose or separating teeth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- A change in the fit of your partial dentures
Many factors can put you at greater risk of developing periodontal disease, including:
- Systemic diseases such as diabetes, pancreatitis, blood cell disorders, HIV and AIDS
- Tobacco use
- Second-Hand Smoke
- Some medications such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, blood pressure medicines and oral contraceptives
- Ill-fitting partial dentures
- Hormone changes due to pregnancy, puberty, and oral contraceptives
- Close bodily contact with someone that has periodontal disease such as parent/child or couple relationships
The Periodontal-Systemic Connection
Gum tissue and tooth loss are not the only potential issues caused by periodontal diseases. Some research suggests there may be a connection between periodontal disease and other health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular (heart) disease, stroke and increased pregnancy concerns.
If I have been diagnosed with periodontal disease or have some of the signs and symptoms, what should I do?
Preventative treatment is always our first recommendation. If you are concerned that you might have periodontal issues or have already been diagnosed, please contact our office to schedule a cleaning appointment. Since there are various stages of periodontal disease, regular dental checkups and professional cleanings are increasingly important in the early diagnosis of the disease. Your dentist and dental hygienist will check for symptoms and be able to help you plan treatment to manage periodontal disease properly.
Once a definitive diagnosis has been made, there are several courses of action depending on the severity of the disease. Stanley Dentistry follows treatment guidelines established by the American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA recommends scaling and root planing (SRP), which involves removing tartar and plaque from the teeth and root surfaces. Additional treatments include regularly scheduled periodontal maintenance and special mouthwash. Depending on the disease progression, site-specific subgingival antibiotics may also be recommended. As treatment is administered, the dentist and hygienist can evaluate its efficacy and decide on next steps for optimal oral health.
At Stanley Dentistry, we often collect a saliva sample from the affected patient for oral DNA analysis. The purpose is to properly identify the strain of bacteria linked to the individual’s periodontal (gum) disease and therefore prescribe the most effective antibiotic to aid healing.
Once initial diagnosis and treatment have been made, it is imperative the patient schedules and keeps their supportive periodontal maintenance appointments. Continued periodontal maintenance is the only way to keep gum disease in remission and therefore prevent reinfection, bone loss, gum recession and tooth mobility (tooth loss).
If you have one or more of the risk factors, a family or personal history of gum disease, or have not been evaluated for periodontal disease, call us today for a free consultation.