Online Dental Education Library
Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.
When to See a Periodontist
Periodontal treatment may be sought in several ways. Your general dentist or a hygienist may recommend a consultation with a periodontist if they find signs of periodontal disease through the course of a checkup or other dental care appointment. You may also decide to see a periodontist on your own, as a referral is not necessary to be seen at our office.
In fact, if you experience any of these symptoms, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at our office without delay:
- Unexplained bleeding while performing regular cleaning or consuming food is the most common sign of a periodontal infection.
- Ongoing halitosis (bad breath), which continues despite rigorous oral cleaning, can point to periodontitis, gingivitis or the beginnings of a gum infection.
- Longer-looking and loose-feeling teeth can indicate recession of the gums and/or bone loss as a result of periodontal disease.
Patients with heart disease, diabetes, osteopenia or osteoporosis are often diagnosed with correlating periodontal infections. The bacterial infection can spread through the blood stream, affecting other areas of the body.
- Bleeding while brushing or eating normal foods
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth and gum recession
- Related health concerns
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is a chronic infection of the periodontal or gum tissue. This infection is caused by the presence of a bacterial film, which is called dental plaque, that forms on the teeth surfaces. Bacteria that found in dental plaque produce toxins which irritate the gums. They may cause them to turn red, swell and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth, causing pockets (spaces) to form. Plaque can also harden into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar). This can occur both above and below the gum line.
As periodontal diseases progress, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorate. If left untreated, this leads to tooth loss. With periodontal disease, bleeding, redness and swelling do not have to be present. Further, pain is usually not associated with periodontal disease. This disease damages the teeth, gum and jawbone of more than 80% of Americans by age 45. Each case is looked at individually, because in addition to plaque there are co-factors such as genetics, smoking, and overall health, which contribute to disease severity. Once periodontal disease is detected, our goal as therapists is to provide information and treatment necessary to control/ or arrest the active infection, and help keep the disease in an inactive or controlled state.
However, don’t be fooled!
With periodontal disease, bleeding, redness and swelling do not have to be present. The periodontal disease symptoms of inflammation may only be evident with sub gingival probing. Further, pain is usually not associated with periodontal disease.
Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection caused by bacterial plaque, a thin, sticky layer of microorganisms (called a biofilm) that collects at the gum line in the absence of effective daily oral hygiene. Left for long periods of time, plaque will cause inflammation that can gradually separate the gums from the teeth — forming little spaces that are referred to as “periodontal pockets.” The pockets offer a sheltered environment for the disease-causing (pathogenic) bacteria to reproduce. If the infection remains untreated, it can spread from the gum tissues into the bone that supports the teeth. Should this happen, your teeth may loosen and eventually be lost.
When treating gum disease, it is often best to begin with a non-surgical approach consisting of one or more of the following:
- Scaling and Root Planing. An important goal in the treatment of gum disease is to rid the teeth and gums of pathogenic bacteria and the toxins they produce, which may become incorporated into the root surface of the teeth. This is done with a deep-cleaning procedure called scaling and root planing (or root debridement). Scaling involves removing plaque and hard deposits (calculus or tartar) from the surface of the teeth, both above and below the gum line. Root planing is the smoothing of the tooth-root surfaces, making them more difficult for bacteria to adhere to.
- Antibiotics/Antimicrobials. As gum disease progresses, periodontal pockets and bone loss can result in the formation of tiny, hard to reach areas that are difficult to clean with handheld instruments. Sometimes it's best to try to disinfect these relatively inaccessible places with a prescription antimicrobial rinse (usually containing chlorhexidine), or even a topical antibiotic (such as tetracycline or doxycyline) applied directly to the affected areas. These are used only on a short-term basis, because it isn't desirable to suppress beneficial types of oral bacteria.
- Bite Adjustment. If some of your teeth are loose, they may need to be protected from the stresses of biting and chewing — particularly if you have teeth-grinding or clenching habits. For example, it is possible to carefully reshape minute amounts of tooth surface enamel to change the way upper and lower teeth contact each other, thus lessening the force and reducing their mobility. It's also possible to join your teeth together with a small metal or plastic brace so that they can support each other, and/or to provide you with a bite guard to wear when you are most likely to grind or clench you teeth.
- Oral Hygiene. Since dental plaque is the main cause of periodontal disease, it's essential to remove it on a daily basis. That means you will play a large role in keeping your mouth disease-free. You will be instructed in the most effective brushing and flossing techniques, and given recommendations for products that you should use at home. Then you'll be encouraged to keep up the routine daily. Becoming an active participant in your own care is the best way to ensure your periodontal treatment succeeds. And while you're focusing on your oral health, remember that giving up smoking helps not just your mouth, but your whole body.
Often, nonsurgical treatment is enough to control a periodontal infection, restore oral tissues to good health, and tighten loose teeth. At that point, keeping up your oral hygiene routine at home and having regular checkups and cleanings at the dental office will give you the best chance to remain disease-free.
Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease Have your gums ever bled when you brushed or flossed? This most commonly overlooked simple sign may be the start of a silent progressive disease leading to tooth loss. Learn what you can do to prevent this problem and keep your teeth for life... Read Article
Treating Difficult Areas Of Periodontal Disease Local antimicrobial or antibiotic therapy is sometimes used to treat difficult areas of periodontal (gum) disease. However, it is important to realize that while periodontal disease is a bacterially induced and sustained disease, mechanical cleaning to reduce bacteria is the best and most often used treatment... Read Article