What is Periodontal (Gum) Disease?
The word periodontal means “around the tooth”. Periodontal disease attacks the gums and the bone that support the teeth. This begins with plaque, a sticky film of food debris, bacteria, and saliva. If plaque is not removed, it turns into calculus (tartar). When plaque and calculus are not removed, they begin to destroy the gums and bone resulting in periodontitis. Periodontal disease is characterized by red, swollen, and bleeding gums.
Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.
Signs and symptoms of periodontal disease
- Bleeding gums – Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
- Loose teeth – Also caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (fibers that support the tooth to the bone).
- New spacing between teeth – Caused by bone loss.
- Persistent bad breath – Caused by bacteria in the mouth.
- Pus around the teeth and gums – Sign that there is an infection present.
- Receding gums – Loss of gum around a tooth.
- Red and puffy gums – Gums should never be red or swollen.
- Tenderness or Discomfort – Plaque, calculus, and bacteria irritate the gums and teeth.
Diagnosing Periodontal Disease
Your dentist or hygienist will use pocket depths, amount of bleeding, inflammation, tooth mobility, etc., to make a diagnosis that will fall into a category below:
- Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease. Plaque and its toxin by-products irritate the gums, making them tender, inflamed, and likely to bleed.
- Plaque hardens into calculus (tartar). As calculus and plaque continue to build up, the gums begin to recede from the teeth. Deeper pockets form between the gums and teeth and become filled with bacteria and pus. The gums become very irritated, inflamed, and bleed easily. Slight to moderate bone loss may be present.
- The teeth lose more support as the gums, bone, and periodontal ligament continue to be destroyed. Unless treated, the affected teeth will become very loose and may be lost. Generalized moderate to severe bone loss may be present.
Treating Periodontal Disease
Depending on the severity of each individual case, treatments for gum disease can vary. Typical treatments include:
- Non-surgical treatments, including at-home periodontal trays and scaling and root planning (deep cleaning)
- Periodontal surgery and laser gum surgery
- Dental implants