A Guide to Periodontal Disease:

What causes periodontal disease?

The major cause of periodontal disease is the interaction between the bacteria found in the plaque, (sticky, virtually invisible film that collects on the teeth every day) and the body’s response to that bacteria. These bacteria create toxins that irritate and inflame the gums. This inflammatory process destroys the gum tissues and causes them to separate from the teeth. If left untreated, the disease advances to damage the underlying bone.

When plaque is not removed from the teeth regularly, it forms a hard porous substance called calculus or tartar. If calculus forms on the roots of the teeth below the gumline, it irritates the gums even further and contributes to even more plaque collection and disease. Only a dentist or dental hygienist can remove plaque and calculus from your teeth.

Once the bacteria in plaque have created inflammation and damage to the gum tissue occurs, a number of other factors can contribute to the severity of periodontal disease and the rate at which it progresses. Among them are:

  • Chewing or smoking tobacco
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Poorly fitting bridges
  • Badly aligned teeth
  • Defective fillings
  • Food impacted between teeth
  • Clenching or grinding teeth
  • Poor diet
  • Pregnancy or oral contraceptives
  • Systemic diseases such as diabetes or AIDS
  • Certain medications
What are the symptoms of periodontal disease?

While the early symptoms of periodontal disease can only be detected by a dentist, there are other indicators that start to appear as the disease progresses. Symptoms like:

  • Red or swollen gums
  • Gums that bleed during brushing and flossing
  • Teeth that have shifted or loosened
  • Pus between teeth and gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Teeth that appear longer because gums have receded
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
  • Changes in the way teeth fit together when biting
  • Changes in the way a partial or denture fits.

If you have one or more of these symptoms, you may have some form of periodontal disease and should consult with Dr.Duffin. Vicky Tal-Vatter, our experienced dental hygienist will then measure the depth of the pockets between your teeth and gums and take x-rays to see if damage has occurred to the supporting bone. If after this evaluation, it is determined that you do have periodontal disease, there are a number of treatments Dr. Duffin can recommend.

How can Periodontal Disease be treated?

If periodontal disease is diagnosed in the early stages of gingivitis, it can be treated with a thorough professional cleaning. If the disease has progressed beyond gingivitis to periodontitis the treatment may involve a process called deep cleaning or root planning which involves cleaning and smoothing the root surfaces of the teeth to remove calculus and bacterial deposits below the gumline so that the gums can heal around them. This procedure may require several appointments, depending on the extent of your periodontal disease.

In cases of advanced periodontitis, when deeper pockets have formed between the teeth and gums, surgery may be required to allow the dentist to thoroughly clean the roots of the teeth and eliminate the pockets. When there’s not enough existing gum, a gum graft might be recommended as well.

What are the stages of periodontal disease?

Healthy gums are firm, pink and don’t bleed. In the earliest stage of periodontal disease, called gingivitis, the gums begin to get red and puffy and may bleed during brushing or flossing. Plaque and tartar may build up at the gum line, but the bone that holds the teeth is still healthy and removing the irritants will restore tissue health.

The next stage of periodontal disease is call periodontitis. At this stage, the gums begin to separate from the teeth, the underlying bone is damaged, pockets form and sometimes the gums recede. Bacteria-laden plaque spreads into the pockets, making it more difficult to keep tooth surfaces clean and to control the disease process.

In the advanced stages of the disease, pockets continue to deepen and there is further destruction of the underlying bone. Additionally, the bacteria that live in these pockets are more virulent and contribute even further to disease progression. Left untreated, teeth will eventually loosen and fall out.

Dr. Duffin recommends regular hygiene appointments

Having your teeth cleaned at least twice a year is one thing you can do to help ward off periodontal disease. If you have any concerns or questions please call Dr. Duffin at 951-223-1917.