The word periodontal literally means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums around the teeth and the bone supporting the teeth. Periodontal (gum) diseases are serious infections that, if left untreated will deteriorate the bone and ligaments that support the teeth, eventually leading to tooth loss.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
Harmful, living bacteria found in the mouth increase in quantity and form a sticky white substance known as plaque. Plaque must be removed on a daily basis by brushing and flossing to prevent excess accumulation. If left unchecked, plaque will form a hard, mineral-like substance known as calculus or tartar, which can only be removed during a professional cleaning (prophylaxis).
The bacteria in calculus and plaque release toxins which irritate the gums and cause a breakdown of the fibers holding the gums to the teeth, creating pockets between the teeth and gums. If left undisturbed, the pockets extend deeper and the bacteria begin to destroy the bone holding the teeth securely in place.
What are the Warning Signs? Very often there are no physical signs – especially with people who smoke. This is why it is know as a “silent” disease. If there are signs, here is what you might expect:
Red, swollen, tender gums
Presence of pus/abscesses
Bleeding while brushing or flossing
Teeth that are looseConstant bad breath
Change in fit of partial denture
Tooth pain or sensitivity
Remember, there is NO CURE for periodontal disease; it can only be managed or controlled. The condition will only worsen without proper treatment and home care. Fortunately there are many treatment options available, including both surgical and non-surgical procedures.