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What is Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

 
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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 structures of the teeth.

Periodontal disease is most often preceded by gingivitis which is a bacterial infection of the gum tissue. 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.  If left untreated, it can lead to shifting teeth, loose teeth and eventually tooth loss.

Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world and should always be promptly treated.

Types of Periodontal Disease

When left untreated, gingivitis (mild gum inflammation) can lead to more severe gum disease. Deepening pockets between the gums and teeth are generally indicative that soft tissue and bone is being destroyed by periodontal disease.

Here are some of the most common types of periodontal disease:

  • Chronic periodontitis – Inflammation within supporting tissues cause deep pockets and gum recession. This is the most common form of periodontal disease and is characterized by progressive loss of attachment, interspersed with periods of rapid progression.
  • Aggressive periodontitis – This form of periodontitis is characterized by rapid loss of gum attachment and chronic bone destruction.
  • Necrotizing periodontitis – This form of periodontal disease most often occurs in individuals suffering from systemic conditions such as HIV, immunosuppression and malnutrition.  Necrosis (tissue death) occurs in the periodontal ligament, alveolar bone and gingival tissues.

Treatment for Periodontal Disease

There are many surgical and nonsurgical treatments the dentist may choose to perform, depending upon the exact condition of the teeth, gums and jawbone.  A complete periodontal exam of the mouth will be done before any treatment is performed or recommended.

Here are some of the more 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.  A prescription mouthwash may be incorporated into daily cleaning routines.
  • 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.
  • Pocket elimination surgery – Pocket elimination 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.

Ask your dentist if you have questions or concerns about periodontal disease or periodontal treatment.

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