What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal (“peri” meaning around and “dontal” meaning teeth) disease is an infection of the areas that surround your teeth. More commonly known as gum disease, bacteria infect the gums, periodontal ligaments, cementum (thin layer of bony material that connects the teeth to the jaw), and alveolar bone (bone that contains the tooth sockets). There are three stages of gum disease that range in severity. The most common and least severe is gingivitis, followed by periodontitis and advanced periodontitis. Symptoms include swollen, red, tender, or bleeding gums, bad breath, gum recession, and, in advanced cases, loose teeth.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
The primary culprits behind periodontal disease are the bacteria in dental plaque. Therefore, a lack of good oral hygiene is likely to blame. When teeth aren’t brushed properly or regularly, your immune system will release substances to fight excess bacteria. These substances cause damage and inflammation to the gums which, in turn, leads to swelling and bleeding.
The bacteria in plaque are not the only cause of periodontal disease, though. Other risk factors include smoking and tobacco use, misaligned or crowded teeth, grinding or clenching of teeth, and even genetics. Additionally, stress can worsen symptoms and make the disease harder to treat, because it weakens your body’s immune system. Medicines that cause xerostomia (dry mouth) can also lead to gum disease. When you don’t produce enough saliva, plaque forms more easily.
How is Periodontal Disease Treated?
Depending on the type and severity of the disease, there are many different treatment options. One non-surgical option is called scaling and root planing. With this treatment plan, your dentist or periodontist will scrape and remove plaque and tartar from your teeth and root surfaces and smooth away roughness so the gums can reattach themselves to the teeth. In more severe cases, surgical options like pocket reduction or gum grafts might be necessary.
How To Prevent Periodontal Disease
While periodontal disease might sound scary, it can be easily avoided. The best way to prevent periodontal disease is to embrace a positive oral hygiene routine. Brushing and flossing twice a day is the first line of defense against dental plaque. Additionally, visiting your dentist every six months will cut down your risk of disease. He or she can eliminate plaque in areas your toothbrush alone cannot reach.