Periodontal disease, commonly referred to as gum disease, is the inflammation of gums that occurs as a result of chronic infection. Periodontal disease is a severe oral condition that affects a large percentage of Americans, especially the elderly population. While it is a reversible condition, periodontal disease can cause bone loss around the teeth and eventually lead to loss of teeth if left untreated.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease has primarily been linked to inflammation of gums, which can occur due to a variety of causes but is mainly associated with lack of oral hygiene. The plaque that surrounds our teeth and gums needs to be removed regularly through brushing of the teeth at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day. If plaque and food debris is allowed to accumulate in the mouth, it can cause inflammation of the gums, which leads to formation of pockets around the teeth. These pockets accumulate even more plaque and can lead to chronic infection of the gums, causing periodontal disease. The plaque can harden over time to form tartar or calculus, which cannot be removed through regular brushing or flossing. Professional intervention is needed at this point, and chronic periodontal disease can only be treated by a dentist.
Periodontal disease can also be caused by hormonal imbalances in the body, as commonly seen during pregnancy and puberty. These hormonal changes can lead to inflamed gums, which in turn, is a predisposing factor for plaque accumulation. Some individuals may also have genetic susceptibility to develop gum disease. Other factors that play a significant role include smoking, old age, dietary consumption, medication and overall general health.
What are the Symptoms of Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease begins with mild inflammation of the gums, which causes the gums to become red and swollen. There may be occasional bleeding associated with it as well. This stage is known as gingivitis and can be treated by maintaining good oral hygiene at home. If gingivitis is left unchecked, it can progress to periodontal disease, which is the more severe form of gum disease.
Chronic periodontal disease cannot be treated at home and requires professional treatment by a dentist coupled with medication. In the absence of treatment measures, periodontal disease may be associated with pain around the affected regions, foul-smelling breath or halitosis, and loss of bone in severe cases. Advanced periodontal disease destroys the supporting structures around the tooth, which can lead to irreversible loss of teeth.
Treatment of Periodontal Disease
Scaling and Root Planing: This procedure is aimed at removing plaque & calculus from all surfaces of the teeth and underneath the gums. With the help of ultrasonic and hand instruments, the dentist does deep cleaning of the teeth and smoothens the root surfaces to prevent future accumulation of plaque and bacteria. This procedure is usually repeated multiple times at an interval of 2-3 weeks till complete healing of the gum tissue takes place.
Surgery: Surgical procedures may be needed in cases of advanced periodontal disease. The surgery is usually aimed at removing diseased gum tissue and may include graft surgery to augment bone loss. Gum surgery is done as a means of treating periodontal disease and also for cosmetic purposes where the disease has resulted in substantial loss of supporting structures.
At-Home Maintenance: The treatment for periodontal disease can never be complete without adequate measures of maintaining oral hygiene at home and brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day is critical to keep plaque levels under control. Your dentist may also prescribe medication like antibiotics to control the infection and analgesics to help with pain.