Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place. It's typically caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow plaque—a sticky film of bacteria—to build up on the teeth and harden. In advanced stages, periodontal disease can lead to sore or bleeding gums, painful chewing problems, and even tooth loss.
Types of Gum Disease
Gingivitis – Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease. It causes the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.
Periodontitis – Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed.
Types of Periodontitis
- Aggressive periodontitis occurs in patients who are otherwise clinically healthy. Common features include rapid attachment loss and bone destruction and familial aggregation.
- Chronic periodontitis results in inflammation within the supporting tissues of the teeth, progressive attachment, and bone loss. This is the most frequently occurring form of periodontitis and is characterized by pocket formation and/or recession of the gingiva. It is prevalent in adults, but can occur at any age. Progression of attachment loss usually occurs slowly, but periods of rapid progression can occur.
- Periodontitis as a manifestation of systemic diseases often begins at a young age. Systemic conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes are associated with this form of periodontitis.
- Necrotizing periodontal disease is an infection characterized by necrosis of gingival tissues, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone. These lesions are most commonly observed in individuals with systemic conditions such as HIV infection, malnutrition, and immunosuppression.
Risk Factors for Periodontal Disease
There are a number of risk factors for gum disease, but smoking is the most significant. Smoking also can make treatment for gum disease less successful. Other risk factors include diabetes; hormonal changes in girls and women; diabetes; medications that lessen the flow of saliva; certain illnesses, such as AIDS, and their medications; and genetic susceptibility.
Treating Periodontal Disease
Periodontal treatment methods depend upon the type and severity of the disease. If the disease is caught early (when it is gingivitis), and no damage has been done to the supporting structures under the teeth, you may simply be given instructions on improving your daily oral hygiene after having a professional cleaning.
Even with these measures, some patients develop more severe periodontal disease that must be treated. The first step usually involves a special cleaning, called scaling and root planing. In this treatment, plaque and tarter are carefully removed down to the bottom of each periodontal pocket. We offer Oraqix, a needle-free subgingival (below the gum line) anesthetic for use in adults requiring localized anesthesia in periodontal pockets during scaling and/or root planing procedures.
This treatment may be done over several visits, depending on your needs. The tooth’s root surfaces are then smoothed, or planed, to allow the gum tissue to heal and reattach to the tooth. This is sometimes called “periodontal cleaning” or “deep cleaning” and may take more than one visit. Medications may also be recommended to help control infection and aid in healing.
Once the scaling and root planning treatment is complete, another appointment will be made within six to eight weeks. At this appointment, Dr. Skoog or your hygienist will look at your gums to see how they have healed and measure the periodontal pockets again.
Gum Disease Prevention
Preventing gum disease is important for your teeth, but it’s also important for your overall health as well. Here are five simple steps to take right now that can help ensure your gums stay as healthy as possible:
- Brush and floss: The best way to prevent gum disease is to brush and floss regularly, but to get the best effects, you need to be sure you’re doing both correctly so you eliminate bacteria at the gum line and between teeth without harming the gums themselves.
- Have regular checkups with Dr. Skoog at our Palatine dental office.
- Stop smoking: Smoking decreases circulation that helps keep gums healthy, and it’s a primary contributor to gum disease.
- Watch what you eat: Eating a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals is important to keep the gum tissue healthy so it can support your teeth and ward off disease. Avoiding sugary snacks is also important since the bacteria that cause gum disease thrive on sugar.
- Chew sugar-free gum: When you can’t brush after a meal, chewing sugar-free gum can help promote the production of saliva so tiny food particles can be cleared away and your mouth’s healthy environment can be restored.