Periodontal (gum) disease is a common problem that is the result of poor oral hygiene. During your dental checkup, your dentist will do a periodontal exam which includes a mild probing of the space between the gums and the teeth. Healthy gums should have little to no gapping, and should not bleed.
Periodontal disease, otherwise known as gum disease or periodontitis, is caused by poor oral hygiene, as plaque turns to tartar that begins to irritate the gums, causing them to separate and create pockets between the teeth and gums. These pockets become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
The most important part of preventing and treating gum disease is rigorous oral hygiene both at home and with frequent dental checkups. It only takes 24 hours for plaque to turn into tartar on the teeth, so for those who already suffer from periodontal disease, consistent brushing and flossing is mandatory! Your dentist may recommend more checkups than the required biannual visits in order to keep an eye on your gums and keep track of any progress or digression.
Symptoms of periodontal disease include:
- Unexplained bleeding of the gums
- Pain, redness or swelling in the gums
- Longer-looking teeth from gum recession
- Bad breath/halitosis
- Loose teeth, or a change in bite pattern
- Pus between teeth
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to contact your dentist immediately to have a proper diagnosis and begin treatment. When left untreated, gum disease will lead to tooth loss and potentially other health risks.
The three stages of periodontal disease are:
Gingivitis – Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease in which plaque has irritated the gum line, causing the gums to become tender, inflamed and likely to bleed.
Periodontitis – Periodontitis is when plaque has hardened into tartar and continues to build up, causing the gums to move further from the teeth. Deeper pockets form between the teeth and gums and create space for bacteria to grow rampantly. The gums are likely to be inflamed and easily bleed, and some bone loss may occur.
Advanced Periodontitis – The teeth lose significant support as the gums, bone and ligaments continue to be destroyed. If left untreated, the affected tooth will become very loose and likely fall out. General to severe bone loss may be present.
Treatment for periodontal disease depends on the severity of the situation. Typically the pockets will be cleaned out thoroughly and the gums and teeth will be left to heal back together. In more severe cases, periodontal surgery may be required.
The following are treatments for more severe cases of periodontitis:
Laser Treatment – This may be used to decrease the size of the pockets between the teeth and gums
Tissue & Bone Grafting – If a significant amount of bone material or tissue has been destroyed and lost, it may be necessary for a bone or tissue graft to be made to stimulate new, healthy growth.
Pocket Elimination Surgery – Also known as flap surgery, where the pockets are opened, cleaned, and stitched back, eliminating the pocket and encouraging the gums to reattach to the tooth.