What is it?
Periodontal Disease is a chronic progressive disease that according to the CDC affects almost 50% of people over the age of 30 and 65% of people over age 70.
It starts out as gingivitis, which is when the gum tissues become inflamed to to improper removal of plaque, bacteria, food and other foreign objects. This is noted by red, swollen and bleeding gums. At this stage, there has been no loss of attachment of the gums to the teeth and to the bone.
Periodontal Disease is when gingivitis progresses from strictly to inflammation to inflammation with attachment loss. As plaque, bacteria, etc are not removed and invade the sulcus (the thin, naturally occurring space or pocket between the teeth and gums) the fibrous attachments are damaged causing deeper and deeper pockets. The worse part is as these pockets get deeper, they become harder to clean. Worse yet, new types of bacteria that thrive in the absence of oxygen start to grow and these are even more damaging to the gum tissue. At a certain point, the damage progresses completely through the gum tissue and starts to erode the bone underneath. This is a real problem, because once the bone is lost, it is difficult and many times impossible to get back.
What can be done?
First and foremost, prevention through excellent hygiene and routine dental care is the best option.
Gingivitis is usually easily reversed when home care is improved. Sometimes prescription mouth rinses are used to help resolve the issue.
Periodontal Disease usually requires more significant treatment from your dentist and hygienist. At DDS this will include scaling and root planing procedures utilizing ultrasonic scaling devices that irrigate the tissues with antibacterial liquids in addition to treatments using dental lasers. These lasers kill bacteria, remove inflamed and infected gum tissue and promote healing and reattachment of the gum tissue. For more specific information see the Laser Assisted Periodontal Therapy section in the Laser Dentistry portion of our website.
What will happen if I don’t treat my periodontal disease?
The damage will progress until enough bone is lost that the teeth become loose and will need to be extracted. Even before it gets to this point, patients are at increased risk for periodontal infections and abscesses.