Periodontal Disease

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease, also commonly referred to as gum disease, is when bacteria infect your gums and mouth. “Peri” means around, and “odontal” refers to teeth. Periodontal disease can affect any part around the teeth including the gums, roots, ligaments, and bone.

I thought gum disease was called gingivitis?

Gingivitis, another result of bacteria in the mouth, usually comes before periodontal disease. Gingivitis refers to the early stages of bacteria, which manifests itself in plaque buildup around the teeth. This causes the gums to often bleed during brushing or flossing.

What causes periodontal disease?

Plaque causes periodontal disease, but there are some other common risk factors including:

  • Poor oral hygiene: lack of brushing and flossing make periodontal disease easier to develop
  • Genetics: things such as family history or having crooked teeth that are hard to keep clean can contribute to development of periodontal disease
  • Habits: smoking or chewing tobacco make it harder for the gums to repair themselves
  • Hormones: changes that occur in puberty, pregnancy, etc. can make periodontal disease easier to develop
  • Illness: some illnesses such as cancer or diabetes can put you at higher risk for periodontal diseases. The medication you take can contribute as well.

What happens if I have periodontal disease?

If your gingivitis is left untreated, it can (but not always) develop into periodontal disease. If it does progress, the inner layer of the gum will pull away from the teeth, forming pockets. These pockets can become infected because they easily collect germs and debris. Toxins, produced by the bacteria as well as enzymes in your body trying to fight the bacteria off, will begin to break the tissues and bones that hold your teeth in place. This deepens the pockets formed earlier and destroys everything that anchors your teeth in place. This causes your tooth to become loose and eventually fall out.

How is periodontal disease treated?

Treatment varies from person to person, but can range from therapies to stop bacterial growth to surgery to restore tissues. The goal of all treatments is to reduce the infection and stop the disease from further development. The best treatment is to see you dentist as soon as possible if you think you may have periodontal disease.

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