Periodontal diseases are chronic infections of the gums, which gradually destroy the support of your natural teeth. Periodontal means “around the tooth.”
Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth. Dental plaque is the primary cause of gum disease in genetically susceptible individuals. It begins when the bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth) causes the gums to become inflamed. When untreated, the condition may get worse and may lead to bone loss. Daily brushing morning and night and flossing night will help prevent most periodontal conditions. Good oral home care, in conjunction with regular prophylaxis appointments, are necessary to help maintain healthy gums.
Why is Oral Hygiene So Important?
Adults over 35 lose more teeth to gum diseases, (periodontal disease) than from cavities. Three out of four adults are affected at some time in their life. The best way to prevent cavities and periodontal disease is by good tooth brushing and flossing techniques, performed twice daily.
Periodontal disease and decay are both caused by bacterial plaque. Plaque is a colorless film, which sticks to your teeth at the gum line. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth. By thorough daily brushing and flossing you can remove these germs and help prevent periodontal disease.
Periodontal diseases can be accelerated by a number of different factors. However, it is mainly caused by the bacteria found in dental plaque, a sticky colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. If not carefully removed by daily brushing and flossing, plaque hardens into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar).
- Clenching and grinding teeth
- Poor nutrition
Bacteria found in plaque produces toxins or poisons that irritate the gums, which 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. As periodontal diseases progress, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorate. If left untreated, this leads to tooth loss.
Preventing Gum Disease
The best way to prevent gum disease is effective daily brushing and flossing as well as regular professional examinations and cleanings. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home dental care, people still can develop some form of periodontal disease. Once this disease starts, professional intervention is necessary to prevent its progress.
Treating Periodontal Disease
In the early stages of periodontal disease, most treatment involves a special cleaning called scaling and root planing, which removes plaque and tartar around the tooth and smooths the root surfaces. Antibiotics or antimicrobials may be used to supplement the effects of scaling and root planing. In most cases of early periodontal disease, scaling and root planing and proper daily cleaning will definitely help. More advanced cases may require surgical treatment, which involves cutting the gums — sometimes with the assistance of a laser — to remove the hardened plaque build-up and then recontouring the damaged bone. The procedure also is designed to smooth root surfaces and reposition the gum tissue so it will be easier to keep clean. This procedure may be performed by your general dentist, Dr. Pham, or by a specialist, like a periodontist.
After periodontal treatment, the progression of the disease is stopped. However, staying on maintenance program is important for patients who want to sustain the results of periodontal therapy. You should visit the dentist every three to four months (or more frequently, depending on the patient) for spot scaling and root planing and an overall exam. Between visits, brush at least twice a day and floss daily. Neglect to do so will result in refractory periodontitis resulting in possible faster bone loss.
Preventing Periodontal Disease
Removing plaque through daily brushing and flossing and professional cleaning is the best way to minimize your risk. You also should try to reduce the activities such as smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, grinding your teeth. Talk to Dr. Pham about designing a personalized program for home oral care to meet your needs.