If you have been told that you have periodontal (gum) disease, you’re not alone. Many adults have some form of the disease; however it affects some individuals differently than others. Periodontal disease ranges from simple gum inflammation to major damage to the soft tissue and bone around teeth, which if left untreated, can result in tooth loss.
Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria, and our immune system’s response to that bacteria. Everyone has bacteria in their mouth. This bacteria can combine with food debris to form a sticky, colorless “plaque” or film on our teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque, and the longer plaque is on teeth, the more harmful it becomes. Plaque and bacteria cause inflammation of the gums, which is called “gingivitis.” In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis is a mild form of periodontal disease that can usually be reversed with daily brushing, daily flossing, and regular cleanings. Gingivitis can advance to “periodontitis” in some patients. In periodontitis, the gums become so inflamed that they pull away from the teeth and form spaces (called “pockets”) where more bacteria can gather. The body’s immune system fights these bacteria as they spread below the gum line, but it also breaks down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If untreated, the tissues that hold teeth in place are destroyed and the teeth eventually become loose, resulting in risk of tooth loss.
There are certain conditions and habits that may increase your risk of periodontal disease, and they include:
- Smoking. Need another reason to quit smoking? Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of gum disease. Additionally, smoking can lower the chances for successful treatment.
- Diabetes. People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing infections, including gum disease.
- Genetic susceptibility. Some people are simply more prone to severe gum disease than others.
Receding gums, tender or bleeding gums, loose teeth, bad breath that won’t go away, and red or swollen gums can all be symptoms of periodontal disease. The first step in treating periodontal disease is to have a dentist evaluate your teeth and gums. Your dentist will perform an examination, take radiographs, and use a tiny ruler called a “probe” to check for any “pockets”.
If you are found to have periodontal disease, your dentist may refer you to a specialist in treating periodontal disease. This type of dentist is called a periodontist and they may recommend:
- Scaling and root planning (deep cleaning)
- Periodontal surgery
Treatment results depend on many things, including how far the disease has progressed, how well the patient keeps up with oral care at home, and certain risk factors, such as smoking, which may lower the chances of success.
If a tooth is recommended for extraction, it is then time to have a discussion about how to best replace missing teeth. This may require dental implants, a bridge, a partial denture, or some other prosthetic solution. As a prosthodontist, Dr. Limmer specializes in the diagnosis of dental disease and the prosthetic replacement of missing teeth. Trailhead dental works closely with many periodontal specialty offices to help treat periodontitis and to improve dental health.
If you are concerned that you may have periodontal disease and you would like meet with Dr. Limmer for an evaluation, please contact us for at 720-242-6803 to schedule an appointment.