What is Periodontal Disease?

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periodontal disease

Periodontal Disease, also called gum disease, is an infection of the gums and bones that support and surround the teeth. Periodontal tissues that may be infected include the alveolar bone, periodontal ligament, cementum, and gingiva. In the earlier stages of Periodontal disease, it is called gingivitis. Gums becoming swollen and red and even bleeding are signs of gingivitis. If it progresses, it may become a more serious form of the disease called periodontis. With this disease, the gums can pull completely away from the tooth, bone loss may occur, and teeth can become loose or possibly even fall out.

A sticky film of bacteria called plaque is constantly forming on the teeth. These bacteria can create toxins that cause periodontal disease and gum damage. A few signs that you may have periodontal disease include bad breath, red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums, pain when chewing, loose or sensitive teeth, pus in the gums or teeth, or a receding gum line. Periodontal disease is one of two biggest threats to dental health, so it is suggested you see a dentist as soon as possible if you think you may have this disease.

Periodontal disease can be treated with good oral hygiene or professional help depending on the severity of the disease. Brushing and flossing at least twice a day to remove bacteria is important to prevent and control periodontal disease. There are various treatment options if you have a severe form of periodontal disease. Scaling and root planing is one option. This is a deep-cleaning procedure where the tartar is scraped from above and below the gum line and rough spots on the tooth root where germs form and gather are removed. This method can result in decreased discomfort, bleeding, and swelling than other methods of treatment.

Medications may also be an option, usually used in combination with the scaling and root planing, but surgery may still be suggested even with use of medication. Surgery may be required if inflammation of the gums and deep pockets continue to occur after deep cleaning treatments and medication. A surgical procedure called flap surgery is typically performed to remove tartar deposits and reduce the periodontal pocket, making it less difficult to keep this area clean. The procedure includes lifting the gums back and removing the tartar, then suturing then back into place.

Bone and tissue grafts may also be suggested to regenerate any gum and bone that may have been lost because of periodontal disease. This is where the area of bone loss is replaced with natural or synthetic bone which can promote bone growth. If gum tissue has been lost, you may need a graft where tissue from another area of the mouth is used to cover the missing area.

Several studies show that periodontal disease can be linked to heart disease. Research shows that those with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease than those that do not suffer from periodontal disease. One theory explaining as to why this may be is that bacteria from the mouth could affect the heart when it enters the blood stream. The bacteria would then attach to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries, which are blood vessels in the heart, and contribute to forming of blood clots. Blood clots can obstruct blood flow and lead to heart attacks. Another theory is that the inflammation that periodontal disease causes increased plaque build up and swollen arteries. Periodontal disease may also contribute to existing heart conditions. At risk patients may need antibiotics before receiving dental treatment for periodontal disease.

To prevent periodontal disease, it is important to brush your teeth very well at least twice daily. Flossing and cleaning in between the teeth every day and eating a balanced diet also contribute to good dental health. The best thing you can do to prevent periodontal disease and other dental diseases is to visit your dentist regularly for check ups and cleaning.

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