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Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)

A common bacterial infection of the gums and teeth.

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    What is Periodontal Disease?

    Periodontal disease is actually a bacterial infection. It is caused by very specific bacterial that attacks the gums and bone around the teeth. The word periodontal even means “around tooth.” Periodontal disease starts with an accumulation of plaque around the teeth and gums. Plaque is a combination of bacteria, food debris, saliva, and dead skin. It is so sticky that it has to be deliberately removed by a toothbrush or floss. Plaque turns into tartar or calculus if it is not removed. It becomes like a barnacle stuck on the tooth.  Both kinds of bacterial formations, plaque and tartar destroy gums and bone. A common sign of gum disease is bleeding gums.

    Statistically, 66% of the population in America has gum disease. Most people are not aware that they have gum disease because symptoms usually don’t develop until advanced stages. It is painless and unobtrusive when treatment is most important, in the early development.

    Periodontal disease is a leading cause of tooth loss. Current research also links gum disease to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, pneumonia, and pregnancy risks. It is unknown how the inflammation and bacteria from the disease affects other conditions, only that there is an undeniable link. Balanced health begins at the mouth with proper hygiene, diet and 6-month checkups at your dentist.

    What should I look for?

    If you have experienced any of the above symptoms, it is important that you have your teeth and gums examined by a dental professional as soon as possible.

    How is gum disease treated?

    The least invasive way to treat periodontal disease is with a “deep cleaning.” A deep cleaning is formally known as Scaling and Root Planing. Scaling and root planing is and multi-factorial treatment. First, the plaque and calculus are meticulously removed from around each tooth; Second, the diseased and infected tissues around the teeth are removed; Third, the gums are treated with antibiotic therapy; and Last, the roots of the teeth are finely scaled and smoothed to allow reattachment of the tissues. Scaling and root planing often produces significantly positive results. The largest deterrent from positive healing is smoking, in all its forms. Although the teeth and gums are effectively treated from scaling and root planing, smoking does not allow for adequate blood flow in the gums and proper reattachment of the tissues. Hence, expectation of success must be tempered with somebody who smokes.

    Following scaling and root planing, the gums are checked for proper healing after 6 weeks. Usually improvement is seen.

    Because destruction of bone is a hallmark of moderate and advanced gum disease, surgical intervention is commonly advised. The disease creates pits and craters in the bone around the teeth. The only way to treat these bacterial traps in the bone is by smoothing them out or filling them in. If the pit is small enough and surrounded by bone, it can be filled in with a bone substitute. If the bone has large deviations from normal, osseous surgery is required. Osseous surgery smooths out and rounds hazardous imperfections in the bone to allow for proper hygiene and health in the future. Osseous surgery is a very successful procedure for long term resolution of moderate to advanced periodontal disease.

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