Periodontal Disease

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease causes the loss of more teeth in adults than all other dental ailments together.  Before the age of 35, decay is the primary cause of tooth loss: thereafter periodontal disease is responsible for over 80% of tooth loss. Periodontal disease is second only to the common cold as the most common of human diseases. An understanding of periodontal disease is essential to assist in its prevention and its successful treatment.

What causes periodontal disease?

The word “periodontal” literally means “around the tooth”.  Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth.  Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth.  It begins when bacteria in plaque cause the gums to become inflamed (gingivitis).  Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis, when the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed.

When should I have a periodontal evaluation?

If you value your oral as well as overall health, anytime is a good time to go for a periodontal evaluation. Sometimes the only way to detect periodontal disease is through a periodontal evaluation. A periodontal evaluation may be especially important if you:

Notice any symptoms of periodontal disease:

  • Gums that bleed easily during brushing or flossing.
  • Red, swollen or tender gums.
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth.
  • Persistent bad breath.
  • Pus between the teeth and gums.
  • Loose or separating teeth.
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.

Are thinking of becoming pregnant?

Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby born too early and too small  In addition, about 50% of women experience “pregnancy gingivitis”. However, women who have good oral hygiene and no gingivitis before pregnancy are very unlikely to experience this condition.

Have heart disease, diabetes, respiratory  disease or osteoporosis.?

Ongoing research is showing that periodontal disease may be linked to these conditions.  The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can travel into the blood stream and pose a threat to other parts of the body. Healthy gums may lead to a healthier body.

How can periodontal disease be prevented?

  • Correct oral hygiene will prevent the formation of bacterial plaque
  • Learn the correct tooth cleansing technique under supervision of a dentist or oral hygienist
  • Have this technique checked regularly.
  • Have regular oral hygiene appointments
  • Have regular periodontal evaluation and periodic x-rays to reveal otherwise undetectable changes in jaw bone.

What happens once treatment has been completed?

You will be scheduled to commence a periodontal maintenance program, which will consist of three monthly visits to the oral hygienist. The interval may be reduced or extended, depending on several factors such as the original extant of the disease, your progress following treatment, as well as your ability to remove plaque.

Can periodontal disease be inherited?

YES !!!   Recent research has established that a predisposition to periodontal disease may be carried in a particular genetic structure which can be passed from parent to child. This tendency may exist in 1 in 8 of the population, regardless of race, nationality or social background.

What does treatment involve?

  • Learning an effective oral hygiene technique
  • Having your teeth scaled and polished
  • Root planing — where an attempt is made to decontaminate the surfaces of the roots of your teeth using special dental instruments in order for the gum tissue to become reattached to the tooth surface.
  • Where the periodontal condition is advanced minor surgical procedures may be necessary to gain access to the roots requiring decontamination; as well as to correct any major bone changes that may have resulted from the  disease.
  • Each patient will have different problems which will have to be handled on an individual basis. It is impossible to mention them all in this pamphlet. Your dentist will discuss these with you.

Why do some people, who look after their teeth, suffer from periodontal disease, whereas others who hardly ever use a toothbrush may not?

Plaque is the main and possibly the only initiating factor in causing periodontal disease, yet only 1 in 8 individuals will contract the disease.

There must, therefore, be some difference between the one who is susceptible to the disease and the seven who are not. Modern research has provided us with new information explaining that the difference results form the fact that some individuals have a predisposition, or weakness that allows plaque to initiate the disease process.

The two main predisposing factors that we are aware of thus far are the genetic tendency, already mentioned, and smoking. However, in the absence of plaque, periodontal disease will usually not occur, irrespective of whether one is susceptible to the disease or not. Patients, who require or who have undergone extensive periodontal treatment, must be regarded as being susceptible to the disease.