What is Periodontal Disease?

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease (sometimes called periodontitis) is an aggressive form of gum disease. Although gum disease starts out as gingivitis, it’s reversible when you catch it early on. But left untreated, this gum infection will evolve into a moderate to severe form of dental disease that requires professional intervention to save your smile.

What Causes Gum Disease/Periodontitis?

Let’s break down periodontitis to get a firm grasp on what’s really going on. The word “perio-” means “around”, “-dont” refers to tooth, and “-itis” means “inflammation of.” So, when you put them all together, we get an inflammatory condition that’s isolated around the roots of teeth.

This inflammatory cycle is caused by bacterial plaque. When you aren’t brushing very well or flossing between teeth and under the edges of gums, plaque colonies start to accumulate. They also start to calcify into tartar. Once there’s a modest amount of bacterial buildup just under the edges of your gums, your gum tissues respond by detaching and pulling away from the tooth, creating “periodontal pockets”. As a result, the bone underneath them also begins to resorb (shrink away.) Meanwhile your immune system is targeting that area, leading to inflammation and bleeding.

The worse the condition it becomes, the deeper the “pockets” are that start to form under the gums around your teeth. And as you might imagine, these spaces become nearly impossible to clean on your own. A cyclic infection develops that continues to worsen until you seek out professional dental care. 

Symptoms of Periodontal Disease

  • Tooth loss
  • Tooth mobility
  • Swollen gums
  • Bleeding when you brush or floss
  • Tender gum tissues
  • Bad breath
  • Spaces between teeth
  • Gum recession
  • Tartar buildup
  • Sore teeth

There will be other symptoms that you can’t spot on your own. Such as deepening “periodontal pockets” between your gums and teeth, bone loss seen on your X-rays, and tartar buildup across the roots of your teeth. These symptoms will be some of the first things our Mesa dentist checks for during your exam. 

If you smoke, vape, or use tobacco products, you probably won’t see all of the same symptoms as someone who is a non-smoker. The biggest issue is that smoking reduces blood flow to your gum tissues, which suppresses swelling and bleeding. Ultimately your gums could seem like they’re healthy, but deep down they’re still detaching from your teeth.

The Risk to Your Overall Health

Periodontal disease doesn’t just lead to tooth loss. Numerous scientific studies show us that oral bacteria from gum disease can spread directly into your bloodstream and respiratory tract. It’s statistically shown to raise your chances of a stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, pneumonia, uncontrolled blood glucose (diabetes), infertility, erectile dysfunction, and stillbirth. By eliminating oral bacteria caused by periodontitis, you can boost your immune health and be more likely to reduce your chances of these secondary medical conditions.

Screening for Gum Disease

During your dental exam, our Mesa dentist or hygienist will measure your gum attachment levels using a small tool called a probe. This rounded-tip device simply slips under the gums and rests at the bottom of the “pocket” where the tissue is attached to your tooth. Pockets that are 3mm or less are considered healthy, while deeper pockets indicate that detachment has occurred.

We’ll also use a set of X-rays to see where the bone levels are around the roots of your teeth, since there can be a bit of difference between bone height and tissue attachment.

Treatments for Periodontitis

The best treatment for gum disease is preventative care. By scheduling six-month cleanings and exams, we can thoroughly remove the bacteria that causes periodontitis and make you aware of problem areas that need your attention.

However, if the infection has already led to gum and bone detachment, the next phase of treatment will involve a series of deep cleanings. Usually, we’ll gently numb one side of your mouth, clean those teeth thoroughly, then clean the other side at a separate visit (since the anesthetic can last for a few hours.) During deep cleanings we reach down under the detached gum tissues to remove all of the residual bacteria from those pockets as well as the root surfaces. Ultimately the goal is to create a clean space where the gums can reattach to your tooth (thus halting additional bone loss.)

In more severe cases, bone grafting, gum grafting, or periodontal surgery may be recommended.

Bleeding Gums? Call Eastport Dental

Eastport Dental provides comprehensive gum disease treatments in Mesa. We can help you assess your situation to save your smile before you run the risk of tooth loss. Call us today to request an appointment.

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