Periodontal Disease

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal treatment is necessary when various conditions affect the health of your gums and the bone that hold your teeth in place. Retaining your teeth is directly dependent on proper periodontal care and ongoing maintenance treatment. Healthy gums enhance the appearance of your teeth, like a frame around a beautiful painting. When your gums become unhealthy, they can recede or become swollen and red. As gum disease progresses, the supporting bone is destroyed and your teeth may shift, loosen, or even fall out. These changes not only affect your ability to chew and speak, they also spoil your smile, can create bad breath and may affect your general health and feelings of well-being.

Periodontal diseases are ongoing infections of the gums that gradually destroy the support of your natural teeth. Periodontal disease affects the integrity of the periodontal tissues: alveolar bone, periodontal ligament, cementum, and gingiva. While there are many diseases which affect the tooth-supporting structures, plaque-induced inflammatory lesions make up the majority of periodontal problems, and are divided into two categories: gingivitis and periodontitis. While gingivitis, the less serious of the diseases, may necessarily progress to periodontitis, it is most often the first visible sign of disease that you may notice.

Dental plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis. Plaque is a sticky colorless film, composed of various types of bacteria, which adhere to your teeth at and below the gum line. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth, even minutes after cleaning. Bacteria found in plaque produce toxins, or poisons, that irritate the gums. If daily brushing and flossing is neglected, plaque accumulates and gums may become inflamed, red, swollen, and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth causing pockets (spaces) to form under the gum line and invade to the level of supporting bone.  If allowed to remain plaque can also harden into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar). This can occur both above and below the gum line and cannot be removed with brushing and flossing.  As this process progresses, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorates. The progressive loss of this bone, alveolar bone, can lead to loosening and subsequent loss of teeth.

Periodontal disease is dangerous in that it is often painless and symptomless.  80% of Americans will be afflicted with periodontal disease by age 45, and 4 out of 5 patients with the disease are unaware they have it. It is important to maintain proper home oral care and regular dentist visits to reduce the risk of obtaining this disease.

Plaque and tartar causing bleeding, inflamed gums

Plaque and tartar causing bleeding, inflamed gums