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.
At one time or another, almost everyone has probably experienced some degree of tooth pain, from minor aches and sensitivity to acute distress. In general, the sensation of pain is a protective response that tells the body something is wrong. But when it affects your teeth, the exact source of the pain can be difficult to pinpoint; it may also come and go in response to other stimuli, like eating hot foods. So what is tooth pain signaling, and what should you do about it?
The most common cause of dental pain is tooth decay, a bacterial infection that can spread through many parts of the tooth, and even into the gum tissue. Traumatic damage and gum disease can also result in tooth pain.
The only sure way to know what's causing tooth pain is to see a dentist, who will ask detailed questions about what you're feeling and perform diagnostic tests, such as x-rays, to try and identify the exact source of the pain. However, there are some general ways to describe the sensations you may be experiencing — and their potential cause.
Severe Pain/Root Canal Emergencies
Constant, severe pain and pressure, swelling of the gums, and sensitivity to touch indicate an infection in the tooth, possibly accompanied by an abscess (inflamed, pus-filled sac) in the surrounding gum and bone tissue. In this case, it's important to see a dentist or endodontist right away — not only to relieve the pain, but also to save the tooth while it's still possible. Treatment may include a root canal to remove diseased or dying pulp tissue, and/or periodontal procedures to drain the abscess and stop the infection.
Lingering pain after eating hot or cold foods usually indicates disease in the pulp tissue deep inside the tooth. Deep decay or physical trauma to the tooth may have allowed bacteria to infect the pulp tissue or compromise the pulp vitality. As nerves inside the pulp tissue die, the pain may go away, but the infection won't — in fact, it can spread and cause significant damage. Make an appointment to see a dental professional as soon as possible; a root canal may be needed to ease the pain and preserve the tooth.
Sharp pain when biting down on food can be caused by severe tooth decay, a loose filling, a crack in the tooth, or possibly by damaged pulp tissue inside the tooth. It should be evaluated by a dentist as soon as possible. Depending on the cause, treatment may involve filling, bonding, root canal therapy, or other procedures.
Occasional or momentary sensitivity to hot or cold foods may be caused by a tiny area of decay, a loose filling, or a small amount of gum recession that has exposed the roots of the teeth. To alleviate the symptoms, you can try using a soft brush and toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth, for a couple of weeks. If that doesn't help, call the dental office to schedule and appointment. Dental treatment itself sometimes causes temporary sensitivity, which can often be relieved by the same methods. If pain persists or grows worse, however, be sure to seek treatment.
A severe sinus headache or congestion from colds or flu may cause you to experience symptoms such as a dull ache or pressure in the upper teeth and jaw. When the illness goes away, the dental distress should cease too. Tooth clenching or grinding (bruxism) has also been known to cause this type of discomfort. If you have these habits, you may want to have a nightguard made at the dental office to protect your teeth and jaws from too much force.
No matter what type of tooth pain or discomfort you are experiencing, it is important to seek treatment if it persists.
A Severe Toothache You may think a painful toothache that goes away on its own is no longer cause for concern. However, it's still worth a visit to the dentist. The disappearance of pain could mean that the nerve tissue deep inside the tooth has died, yet an infection is still present... Read Article
Tooth Pain? Don't Wait! Pain is a protective response that informs the body that something is wrong. Tooth pain, specifically, is caused by a reaction of the nerves inside a tooth's pulp chamber, with the severity dependent upon the type and degree of the stimulus. This article gives some examples of pain symptoms and their possible causes... Read Article
Tooth Decay — A Preventable Disease Tooth decay is the number one reason children and adults lose teeth during their lifetime. Yet many people don't realize that it is a preventable infection. This article explores the causes of tooth decay, its prevention, and the relationship to bacteria, sugars, and acids... Read Article