Seventy percent of all Canadians will develop gum disease (mild or severe) during their lifetime. Periodontal disease or “gum disease” is a major dental concern and understanding its ramifications is essential.
Defining Periodontal Disease
Periodontal Disease (gum disease) is the infection of surrounding tissue(s) near or around the teeth. Bacteria begin to accumulate around the teeth and are described as a “soft film” or plaque. The bacteria in plaque release toxins leading to damaged gums, bones, and teeth. The problem is aggravated by the body’s immune system, which causes ancillary damage (bone and gums).
Periodontal disease can be divided into two distinct stages.
This is the onset of gum disease. The gum tissues start to flare up. Patients will report swelling, redness, and proneness to bleeding. If treated aptly, it will not lead to permanent damage to one’s gums, bones, or teeth.
Periodontitis is the exacerbation of gingivitis and is the second stage of periodontal disease. During this stage, the gum, bones, and teeth are exposed to unwelcome bacteria/toxins. The damage can or does become permanent causing teeth to fall out or require extraction.
Indicators of Periodontal Disease
During the early stages of periodontal disease (gingivitis), a patient will not feel pain/discomfort.
Due to this reason dentists recommend paying attention to key indicators of periodontal disease.
What should a patient look for?
- Swollen Gums (Tender)
- Bleeding Gums (Often While Brushing/Flossing)
- Redness in Gums
- Lingering Bad Breath (Halitosis)
- Shifted Teeth
- Change In Bite
- Metallic Taste In Mouth
- Pus From Gum Line
- Larger Gaps Between Teeth
- Loose Teeth
Dental professionals will analyze a patient’s gums and bone level to diagnose periodontal disease. If they notice redness, bleeding gums, or related symptoms, the diagnosis is confirmed. Before doing so, the dental professional sets out to measure periodontal pockets (space between tooth and gum). If there are deep pockets, it’s often an indicator of bone loss/gum attachment loss. In this case, x-rays are taken to analyze the bone structure.
Potential Instigators For Developing Periodontal Disease
What can cause a patient to develop gingivitis?
- Specific Medication (Cancer Therapy Drugs, Heart Medications, Steroids, Oral Contraception)
- Hormonal Changes (Pregnancy, Menopause, Puberty)
- Poor Alignment of Teeth
- Inadequate Fillings, Crowns, or Bridges
Please remember, the best line of defense is always good oral hygiene.
Patients are told to recognize the correlation between oral health and general health. Studies have established the connection between periodontal disease and other conditions such as cancer, stroke, and heart disease to name a few. In fact, the strongest correlation is seen in diabetics due to rising blood sugar levels.
Catalyst For Supplementary Health Problems
Researchers have completed an in-depth study to analyze patients suffering from various stages of gum disease. These patients were compared to subjects without gum disease to see if there were clear-cut patterns.
The study revealed patients suffering from gum disease were prone to develop rising blood sugar levels and heart disease.
Additional studies observed women suffering from gum disease to see if patterns emerged. The studies revealed women with gum disease were more likely to have premature deliveries while pregnant.
Researchers continue to study the correlation between gum disease and supplementary health concerns.
All findings emphasize the importance of treating gum disease in its earliest stages.
Treating Periodontal Disease
Dental professionals set a customized treatment plan based on the patient’s condition.
Treatment can include:
- Oral Antibiotics
- Gum Surgery
- Antimicrobial Mouth Rinses
- Scaling or Root Planing (Deep Cleansing)
Two surgical treatments are available: flap surgery or bone and tissue grafts.
- Flap Surgery
This surgical procedure involves the removal of tartar deposits in one’s deep pockets. Otherwise, a dentist will work on reducing the periodontal pocket’s size. This can aid in providing access for future cleanings.
During this surgical procedure, the dentist will lift the gums to remove tartar. Once finished, the gums are sutured into place. The gums are allowed to heal and recover once the procedure is complete.
- Bone and Tissue Grafts
To regenerate bone/gum tissue, a dentist can advocate the use of grafts. The procedure employs natural or synthetic materials as replacements. With a graft, the tissue regenerates and helps encourage future growth.
During this surgery, the dentist will set up a mesh-like material and situate it between one’s gum tissue and bone (guided tissue regeneration). The goal is to facilitate growth in the area without hindrance. In specific cases, a dentist will also recommend the use of proteins to initiate growth.
With absent gum tissue, the dentist will fit a soft tissue graft (synthetic material) to shelter unprotected tooth roots.
As mentioned above, good oral hygiene is the best shield against periodontal disease. Individuals are advised to maintain a suitable day-to-day oral care regimen. If not, plaque build-up can become a prominent concern causing calcification and hardening. When calcification occurs, a dental professional has to use specific methods to eliminate the build-up.
It’s essential to set up regular appointments with an accredited dentist to maintain good oral health.