Many people mistakenly believe that decay is their biggest concern when it comes to the health of their teeth. However, there is a far larger threat that can not only put your teeth at risk, but that can also affect the structure of your face and increase your risk of developing chronic and debilitating health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even some cancers. It is known as periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is known by a number of other names, including gum disease, dental disease, and periodontitis. It is a progressive condition, which means that the symptoms start off very mildly. However, unless treatment is sought in its earliest stages, it can quickly become much worse and cause permanent damage to your smile.
Our mouths are full of bacteria. These bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, form a sticky, colorless substance on our teeth. This is known as plaque. Plaque is most commonly found in the area where the teeth meet the gums, and if it isn’t removed, it can harden into a substance called tartar, that brushing alone cannot remove. Instead, only professional dental cleaning by your dentist or hygienist can clear it away. Unfortunately, the longer that plaque and tartar are on the teeth, the more harmful that they become. The bacteria contained within them can spread onto the gums, causing inflammation and irritation. This is best known as gingivitis and is the earliest stage of periodontal disease. At this stage, the problem can be reversed by committing to a very robust oral hygiene routine of daily brushing and flossing, and regular visits to your dentist. However, if gingivitis is not dealt with at this early stage, it can progress and become periodontal disease. At this point, there is moderate to severe damage to the teeth, gums and other structures, some of which are irreversible.
The gingival stage of periodontal disease is very mild, and this makes the symptoms fairly easy to overlook or ignore. These early signs include red and swollen gums and experiencing some bleeding when you brush or floss your teeth. However, as the condition progresses, you might start to experience symptoms that include:
An unpleasant taste in your mouth
Pain in and around your mouth
Abscesses of the gum tissue
Teeth that seem loose
You may also notice that your gum tissue is receding and pulling away from the teeth. Not only does this mean that the teeth have less support to hold them in position, but it also enables the formation of periodontal pockets. These are small gaps between the teeth and gum tissue where further bacteria and debris can become trapped. Since it is impossible to clean periodontal pockets with just a toothbrush, professional intervention is essential.
When the periodontal disease becomes extremely severe, it can lead to deterioration of the bone in the jaw. This occurs primarily due to tooth loss. The roots of the teeth stimulate healthy bone growth, but once a tooth falls out, the bone around where it once sat starts to deteriorate. This can affect the shape and definition of your face and make other dental treatments, such as implants, much harder to achieve.
If you manage to catch periodontal disease in the earliest stages, making a particular effort to brush your teeth after meals, floss every day and make regular visits to see your hygienist for professional cleans can get your gum health back on track. However, if the condition had advanced, you may need specific treatment for periodontal disease. Some of the treatments that you may be recommended could include:
A scale and polish. This is a deep clean that targets removing plaque and tartar from the teeth.
Scaling and root planing. This is where a scale and polish are combined with an even deeper clean that accesses under the gums and into the periodontal pockets so that bacteria can be properly removed from the roots of the teeth.
A course of antibiotics to help eliminate any infection that may have occurred.
Gum surgery. This can include cutting away any infected gum tissue and potentially grafting healthy tissue back onto the affected area to make sure that your tooth is properly supported.
Extraction of the affected tooth.
Exactly which treatment you will be recommended will depend on the extent of your periodontal disease and how well you respond to treatment.
If you would like more information about periodontal disease, or if you have already been diagnosed and are seeking effective treatment carried out by experienced professionals, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team at John K. See, DDS in Camarillo, CA (805) 920-8600!