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The Difference Is in the Details

What Is Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

The term “periodontal” means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease (also known as periodontitis and gum disease) is a common inflammatory condition which affects the supporting and surrounding soft tissues of the tooth. In its most advanced stages, it also affects the jawbone itself.

Periodontal disease is most often preceded by gingivitis which is a bacterial infection of the gum tissue. A bacterial infection affects the gums when the toxins contained in plaque begin to irritate and inflame the gum tissues. Once this bacterial infection colonizes in the gum pockets between the teeth, it becomes much more difficult to remove and treat. 

Periodontal disease is a progressive condition that eventually leads to the destruction of the connective tissue and jawbone. It is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world and should always be promptly treated. If left untreated, it can lead to shifting teeth, loose teeth, and eventually tooth loss.

Types of Periodontal Disease

If left untreated, gingivitis (mild gum inflammation) can spread to areas below the gum line. When the gums become irritated by the toxins contained in plaque, a chronic inflammatory response causes the body to break down and destroy its own bone and soft tissue. 

There may be little or no symptoms as periodontal disease causes the teeth to separate from the infected gum tissue. Deepening pockets between the gums and teeth are generally indicative that soft tissue and bone is being destroyed by periodontal disease.

Most Common Types of Periodontal Disease

Chronic Periodontitis

Inflammation within supporting tissues cause deep pockets and gum recession. It may appear that the teeth are lengthening but, in actuality, the gums (gingiva) are receding. 

This is the most common form of periodontal disease. It is characterized by progressive loss of attachment, interspersed with periods of rapid progression.

Aggressive Periodontitis

This form of gum disease occurs in an otherwise clinically healthy individual. It is characterized by rapid loss of gum attachment, chronic bone destruction, and familial aggregation.

Necrotizing Periodontitis

This form of periodontal disease most often occurs in individuals suffering from systemic conditions, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), immunosuppression, and malnutrition. Necrosis (tissue death) occurs in the periodontal ligament, alveolar bone, and gingival tissues.

Periodontitis Caused by Systemic Disease

This form of gum disease often begins at an early age. Medical conditions are common cofactors, such as respiratory disease, diabetes, and heart disease.

Common Treatments for Periodontal Disease

Scaling and Root Planing

In order to preserve the health of the gum tissue, the bacteria and calculus (tartar) which initially caused the infection must be removed. The gum pockets will be cleaned and treated with antibiotics as necessary to help alleviate the infection. 

A prescription mouthwash may be incorporated into daily cleaning routines. This type of treatment is performed at our office.

Tissue Regeneration

When the bone and gum tissues have been destroyed, regrowth can be actively encouraged using grafting procedures. A membrane may be inserted into the affected areas to assist in the regeneration process. A periodontist performs this treatment.

Pocket Elimination Surgery

Pocket elimination surgery (also known as flap surgery) is a surgical treatment which can be performed to reduce the pocket size between the teeth and gums. Surgery on the jawbone is another option which serves to eliminate indentations in the bone which foster the colonization of bacteria. This problem is treated by a periodontist.

Dental Implants

When teeth have been lost due to periodontal disease, the aesthetics and functionality of the mouth can be restored by implanting prosthetic teeth into the jawbone. Tissue regeneration procedures may be required prior to the placement of a dental implant in order to strengthen the bone. 

If you have questions or concerns about periodontal disease, periodontal treatment, or dental implant, contact us by phone. We look forward to hearing from you!