The word “periodontal” literally means “around the tooth”. Periodontal Disease (also known as “gum disease” or “periodontal infection”) is an ongoing bacterial infection in the gums and bone around your teeth. This infection leads to an inflammation under the gums, and if not treated, this inflammation can destroy the bone around your teeth. This results in tooth loss. 75% of all adult tooth loss is due to periodontal disease.
More importantly, research has associated periodontal disease to several serious medical problems; including heart disease, diabetes and stroke (see the “The Consequences of Periodontal Disease” section). As ongoing research continues to define how periodontal disease is associated with these and other health problems, oral health maintenance is essential. Periodontal health is a key component to a healthy body.
What is an “ongoing infection”?
Have you ever gotten a sliver of wood caught under the skin of your hand? Because the wound is open to bacteria, the site may become infected and so appear red and inflamed. In time, your immune system fights off the bacteria and your hand heals when the sliver has been removed.
During an ongoing infection, however, your immune system is unable to conquer the bacteria on its own, and the pain and redness continue to worsen.
Periodontal disease is an ongoing infection in the pockets around your teeth. You cannot fight off the infection alone, but with periodontal therapy we are able to remove debris and bacteria from the site, allowing the gum to heal as your hand had.
What Can Cause a “Burst” of Infection Activity?
People with periodontal disease have low resistance to periodontal bacteria. This causes an ongoing gum infection that grows in “bursts” of activity. Each time it grows, more support for your teeth is lost. Some factors that can cause this to occur may include:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Dental plaque
- Genetic factors
- Stress or tension
- Bad bite
- Systemic Illness
- Smoking / Tobacco
Getting Periodontal Infection Treated Right Away
When your infection has a burst of activity, or when there are signs that this is about to occur, your general dentist may recommend you see a periodontist.
Symptoms of Periodontal Infection
Periodontal infection is usually painless until it reaches an advanced stage. However, there are some symptoms which can indicate the presence of periodontal infection.
These may include:
- Red or swollen gums
- Bleeding when brushing (pink toothbrush), or at other times
- Aching, itchy, sore or tender gums
- Receding gums (teeth beginning to look longer)
- Pus between your teeth and gums when you press down on the gums
- Bad breath
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Any change in the fit of partial dentures
- Loose, separating or protruding teeth
- Spaces between teeth
If you notice any of the above warning signs of periodontal infection, please contact TerraGreen Dental and ask for a periodontal evaluation.
Important Note: Your gums can look and feel quite normal and yet deep pockets of periodontal infection can still be present. To be certain about any periodontal disease, ask Dr. Hoff to examine your gums for signs of infection.
How is Periodontal Disease Treated?
Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that penetrates into the gums and into the bone around your teeth, causing inflammation. Periodontal inflammation leads to bone loss and possibly tooth loss and may contribute to other medical conditions.
The periodontal infection must be removed and the area given a chance to heal. There are generally two levels of treatment for this condition depending upon the severity of your infection.
Upper Level Infection Removal
The upper level of infection in the pockets around your teeth can be removed using specialized instruments. This procedure is called, “Scaling and Root Planing”, “Phase One Treatment” or “Initial Therapy”. It is done under local anesthesia and is quite different from the routine dental cleaning or “deep cleaning” that is traditionally done in the general dentist’s office.
Lower Level Infection Removal
If your infection has spread into the bone that supports your teeth, and is below the level that can be reached in “Upper Level Infection Removal”, then a surgical procedure must be performed to retract the gums and remove the lower level infection.