What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal is a broad term used to describe various diseases that affect the gums, bone and surrounding structures of the teeth. The 2001 Guinness Book of World Records lists Periodontal Disease as the #1 disease affecting mankind. Three out of four Americans have Periodontal Disease. The most common types of adult periodontal disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis causes bleeding and reddening of the gums. Periodontitis damages the bone and connective tissue that support the teeth.

Do I have Periodontal Disease?

Warning Signs

The existence of bone destruction under the gums cannot be visually detected. This makes it especially important to visit your dentist regularly.

Some early warning signs include:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Red, tender puffy or swollen gums
  • Pain or tenderness in the gums
  • Itchy sensation
  • Teeth that are loose or shifting
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Constant bad breath or taste
  • Changes in your bite
  • Changes in the fit of your oral appliance
  • Gums pulling away from the teeth

How do I Prevent Periodontal Disease?

  • Good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist regularly can stop the disease’s progression
  • Eating a balanced diet to supply nutrients for good health
  • Proper use of a tooth brush, toothpaste, dental floss and mouthwash
  • Drinking at least seven glasses of water per day to increase saliva in the mouth

If I have periodontal disease, what do I do?

An evaluation is done using a periodontal probe to measure the depth of space between the teeth and gums. X-rays are taken to see whether the bone is damaged and deteriorating. Your hygienist will then be able to diagnose you with periodontal disease based on the full evaluation. When the hygienist is recording measurements listen to the numbers that are called out. A healthy pocket depth ranges from 1-3mm’s, borderline between healthy and unhealthy would be a 4mm, and 5-7mm’s is considered unhealthy and can be treated in our office. Above 7mm’s, surgery may be needed. Depending on the disease progression, the following treatments are used.

  • More frequent cleaning intervals
  • Scaling is done to scrape off tartar and plaque from the tooth’s crowns and roots
  • Root planing is done to smooth rough surfaces of the root to allow the gums to heal
  • An antibiotic (Arestin) may need to be placed in order to kill the bacteria that are infecting the gum and bone. This antibiotic can stay in the pockets for up to a month to protect new bacteria from getting in.
  • Surgery may be needed in certain cases to properly treat the disease.

Early detection is important in the treatment of periodontal disease. In addition, you keep dental costs down by preventing further destruction. If you have any questions about periodontal disease, its progression, or treatment, ask your dentist!


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