Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums and affects the bone that stabilizes teeth. Bacteria collects in the small spaces between the gums and the teeth. When you brush your teeth, most of this bacteria is removed, but a professional dental cleaning every six months ensures this bacteria is removed.
If bacteria is allowed to accumulate to a high enough level, the body responds just like an infection anywhere else in the body: it causes inflammation, swelling, redness and can cause pain, but not always.
The bone that surrounds the tooth senses the infection in the gums and responds by receding to escape the infection. The result is bone loss around the infected teeth.
In turn, the pockets between the gums and the teeth become deeper and easier for bacteria to accumulate. This results in a deeper infection and additional recession of the bone that continues to try to escape the infection.
Who is at risk for Periodontal Disease?
Anyone can get periodontal disease if proper cleanings are not done on a regular basis. Certain conditions do increase the risk for periodontal disease including:
- Systemic diseases like diabetes and heart disease
- Family history of Periodontal Disease
- Certain Medications
The bacteria in periodontal disease has been linked to many other systemic conditions, especially diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Please call our office at 281-440-1050 to find out how we can help if you think you may be at risk for periodontal disease.
What are the symptoms of Periodontal Disease?
Symptoms can include:
- Puffy gums
- Red, inflamed gums
- Tenderness or pain usually described as achy
- Bleeding gums during brushing and flossing
- Bad breath
- Discoloration and tartar build up on teeth near gumline
- Gum recession and tooth sensitivity
How is Periodontal Disease diagnosed?
Periodontal disease is diagnosed by taking measurements of the gums around each tooth. This measures the depth of the gums where the gums meet the teeth. This depth is called a “periodontal pocket.”
Healthy pockets measure 3 millimeters or less. This is a depth that bacteria and dangerous inflammatory irritants can be removed by brushing and flossing.
When periodontal pockets become deeper than 3mm, it becomes a bacteria and plaque trap that cannot be reached with a toothbrush and requires professional intervention.
At 5mm, periodontal disease has progressed to a point that some bone has been lost from around the teeth, but with treatment, can be regenerated.
At 7mm, bone regeneration becomes more difficult, but health can be restored to the gum tissue to prevent further bone loss and decrease the risk of tooth loss. The help of a gum specialist, a periodontist may be required for the best results.
At 9mm, tooth loss becomes a real possibility and the long-term prognosis of these teeth may be in question.
How is Periodontal Disease treated?
Every individual is different and treatment options will vary based on diagnosis and symptoms.
When periodontal disease progresses to this point, a procedure called “scaling and root planing,” commonly referred to as “deep cleaning” becomes necessary to eliminate the plaque and bacteria that cause bone loss.
Treatment is usually done in two sessions—one half of the mouth is treated each session.
Deep cleanings are done by the dentist or dental hygienist and the goal is to remove the dangerous plaque, tartar and bacteria from below the gumline to ensure a smooth healthy tooth surface for gums to adhere to. Some tenderness in the area of the cleaning should be expected for a day or two. This is due to the thorough nature of the cleaning and should not be expected at subsequent cleanings.
What happens after the deep cleaning?
The deep cleaning is the starting point to returning gums to health. In the days and weeks following the deep cleaning, you will notice your gums will be less tender and bleed less when you brush and floss. This indicates your gums are beginning to heal. Now that you have invested time and effort in starting the healing process, it is important to maintain that investment.
The bacteria that are involved in periodontal disease build to a level that can cause damage in only 90 days. For this reason, cleanings are recommended every 3 months for people who have been diagnosed with periodontal disease after a deep cleaning. This way, the bacteria and plaque build up are removed before damage can be done.