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What is Periodontal Disease?

Your gums and supporting bone hold your teeth in place. Issues with either can have serious consequences. When you begin to lose this attachment, we call it periodontal disease, also called gum disease. This is usually the result of bacterial build-up and inflammation at or under the gum line. If left untreated, it can result in tooth loss. It’s important to seek professional treatment as early as possible to help ensure the best outcome.

 

Gum Disease Risk Factors

A man brushing his teeth to prevent gum disease

The primary cause of gum disease is plaque, which is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth. This is caused mainly by carbohydrates, sugars, and starches in food and drinks. If you don’t brush and floss properly, this begins to build up.

Stages of Periodontal Disease

A diagram showing the phases of periodontal disease including gingivitis and periodontitis

No Gum Disease – Healthy Gums

Healthy gums should be pink and fit tightly against your teeth. They are firm and should not bleed during brushing, flossing, or professional dental cleaning. To keep your gums healthy and prevent periodontal disease, you should brush twice daily and floss once a day. You should also see your dentist regularly for check-ups and professional cleanings every 6 months.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and is reversible if caught early and treated properly. This occurs when plaque begins to form under the gum line. Over time, this will harden into “tartar” or “calculus.” Equally as frustrating as a college-level mathematics course, calculus can be a challenge to remove and keep from regrowing. Since it must be removed by a professional, it is important you visit our office early and frequently. In this early stage, the bacteria in plaque and tartar have not yet begun to erode the tooth or bone. Symptoms of gingivitis include bad breath, red or swollen gums, and bleeding while brushing/flossing. However, disease at this stage can also be present with no symptoms, which is one reason it’s important to see your dentist regularly.

Periodontitis

Once gum disease progresses from gingivitis to periodontitis, it is no longer possible to fully reverse the damage. With proper dental care, you can stop the progression of the disease. During this stage, your gums start to become infected and can pull away from the teeth, creating pockets of bacteria. The bacteria also spread into the bone and tooth and begin to eat away at these structures. Symptoms may be similar to gingivitis and your dentist will also be able to check the probing depth of your gums to detect periodontal disease at this stage.

Moderate to Severe Periodontitis

At advanced levels of gum disease, you will notice some of the same symptoms from the earlier stages, along with increased gum recession and increased pocket formation. The bacteria continue to attack the bone and tooth structure, destroying more tissue as time progresses without treatment. Bacteria may begin to spread into your bloodstream as well, causing an increase in inflammation. Recent science shows this link and illustrates the broader consequences of inflammation in our bodies. We now know unnecessary stressors tax our body’s fight against REAL external pathogens and also age us quicker.

Advanced Periodontitis

When periodontal disease reaches its most advanced stage, your gums may start to ooze pus and your teeth can become loose or fall out. Other symptoms include severe pain and sensitivity as well as extreme bad breath that does not go away. Bone loss occurs, unfortunately all too often, and you may need to have teeth extracted during the treatment process to protect the “the greater good of the teeth.” Extensive care is usually necessary in addition to treating the gum disease itself.

Periodontal Disease Treatment

To stop the spread of periodontal disease, it is necessary to clear away plaque and tartar from below the gum line. This area cannot be reached with brushing, flossing, or even more standard methods of professional cleaning. Instead, a “deep cleaning” is necessary, and this treatment is known as scaling and root planing. Scaling is the removal of plaque and tartar build-up and root planing is the process of smoothing the tooth root so your gums can more easily reattach to your teeth. This may be completed in multiple appointments depending on your situation.

Additional Restorative Dentistry

A woman smiling after periodontal disease treatment by our Tucson dentist

In many cases, periodontal disease is accompanied by tooth decay/cavities. You may need dental fillings or crowns to restore affected teeth. If you are suffering from advanced periodontitis, you may need additional care, especially if you have lost teeth or need to have teeth extracted. There are many options for tooth replacement including crowns with dental implants, dental bridges, and dentures (implant-supported or conventional). Your dentist can discuss your options to determine which is best for you.

Gum Disease Treatment and Prevention at Skyline Dental

Our dental office can help you prevent periodontitis with routine cleanings. We will also examine your teeth and gums to check for early signs of the disease. This makes it more likely that we will be able to reverse the issue. If you are already at a more advanced stage, we can work with you to develop a treatment plan.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss periodontal disease.
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