Periodontal diseases are infections of the gums which gradually destroy the support of your natural teeth. There are numerous disease entities requiring different treatment approaches. Dental plaque is the primary cause of gum disease. daily brushing and flossing will prevent most periodontal conditions.

Why is oral hygiene so important? Past the age of 35 adults lose more teeth to gum diseases, (periodontal disease) than from cavities. Three out of four adults are affected at some time in their life. The best way to prevent cavities and periodontal diseases is by good toothbrushing and flossing techniques, performed daily and regular cleanings and check-ups with your dentist or periodontist.

Periodontal disease and decay are both caused by bacterial plaque. Plaque is a colorless film, which sticks to your teeth at the gumline. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth. By thorough daily brushing and flossing you can remove these germs and help prevent periodontal disease.

How did I get periodontal disease?

Periodontal diseases can be accelerated by a number of different factors. However, it is mainly caused by the bacteria found in dental plaque, a sticky colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. If not carefully removed by daily brushing and flossing, plaque hardens into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar).

Bacteria found in plaque produces toxins or poisons that irritate the gums, which may cause them to turn red, swell and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth, causing pockets (spaces) to form. As periodontal diseases progress, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorate. If left untreated, this leads to tooth loss.

Preventing Gum Disease

The best way to prevent gum disease is effective daily brushing and flossing as well as regular professional examinations and cleanings. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home dental care, people still can develop some form of periodontal disease. Once this disease starts, professional intervention is necessary to prevent its progress.

Other important factors affecting the health of your gums

  • smoking
  • diabetes
  • stress
  • clenching and grinding teeth
  • medication
  • poor nutrition
  • pregnancy and puberty

Heart & Periodontal Disease

It’s possible that if you have periodontal disease, you may be at risk for cardiovascular disease…

For a long time we’ve known that bacteria may affect the heart.

Now evidence is mounting that suggests people with periodontal disease – a bacterial infection, may be more at risk for heart disease, and have nearly twice the risk of having a fatal heart attack, than patients without periodontal disease.

While more research is needed to confirm how periodontal bacteria may affect your heart, one possibility is that periodontal bacteria enter the blood through inflamed gums and cause small blood clots that contribute to clogged arteries.

Another possibility is that the inflammation caused by periodontal disease contributes to the buildup of fatty deposits inside the heart arteries.

One out of every 5 Americans has one or more types of heart disease. If you are one of these Americans, or if you are at risk for periodontal disease, see a periodontist for a periodontal evaluation – because healthy gums may lead to a healthier body.

Diabetes & Periodontal Disease

The two-way relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes…

For years we’ve known that people with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes.

Recently, research has emerged suggesting that the relationship goes both ways – periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar.

More research is needed to confirm how periodontal disease can make it more difficult to control blood sugar. What we do know is that severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar, contributing to increased periods of time when your body functions with a high blood sugar. And, as diabetic, you know that this puts you at increased risk for diabetic complications. In other words, controlling your periodontal disease may help you control your diabetes.

If you are among the nearly 16 million Americans in the U.S. who live with diabetes, or are at risk for periodontal disease, see a periodontist for an evaluation – because healthy gums may lead to a healthier body.

Pregnancy & Periodontal Disease

It’s possible that if you have periodontal disease and are pregnant, you may be at risk for having a premature, low birthweight baby…

For a long time we have known that many risk factors contribute to mothers having babies that are born prematurely at a low birthweight – smoking, alcohol use, drug use and infections.

Now evidence is mounting that suggest a new risk factor – periodontal disease. Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that is born too early or too small.

More research is needed to confirm how periodontal disease may affect pregnancy outcomes. What we do know is that periodontal disease is an infection and all infections are cause for concern among pregnant women because they pose a risk to the health of the baby.

If you are planning to become pregnant or are at risk for periodontal disease be sure to include a periodontal evaluation with a periodontist as part of your prenatal care – because healthy gums may lead to a healthier body and a healthy baby.

Respiratory & Periodontal Disease

It’s possible that if you have periodontal disease, you may be at risk for respiratory disease…

For a long time we have known that people who smoke, who are elderly, or have other health problems that suppress the immune system, are at increased risk for the development of respiratory diseases like pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

More research is needed to confirm how periodontal disease may put people at increased risk for respiratory disease. What we do know is that infections in the mouth, like periodontal disease, are associated with increased risk of respiratory infection.

If you are at risk for respiratory disease or periodontal disease see a periodontist for a periodontal evaluation – because healthy gums may lead to a healthier body.

For additional information about periodontology and the American Academy of Periodontology, please click here.

Common Questions

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is an oral health condition that involves the inflammation and/or infection of gingival tissue. This condition is mild at its onset and if treated early on, is reversible. As the condition progresses, however, it can manifest into a very destructive disease that causes tooth and bone loss as well as a systemic infection in the oral cavity.

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease and is curable with timely professional intervention. Causes of gingivitis include improper oral hygiene resulting in tartar buildup. Gums can also become inflamed due to medications or health conditions that dry the mouth as well as hormonal fluctuations that cause the gums to become more sensitive due to changes in blood flow.

Early staged periodontal disease is often asymptomatic but some patients may report bleeding gums and recession of the gum line at the roots of teeth. Normally, gingivitis can be treated with improved home care practices including thorough flossing and professional prophylaxis (cleaning).

What should I do about bleeding gums?

Bleeding gums is not normal. If you notice that your gums bleed during oral hygiene or any other time, you should schedule a checkup with a dentist or periodontist as soon as you can. While you wait for your appointment, do not avoid flossing or brushing. Continue to brush and floss as normal so that you can remove plaque (which turns into tartar when left in the mouth). Brushing and flossing will also help stimulate the gums to generate new tissue.

Why do I need to see a periodontist?

If your dentist has recommended that you see a periodontist, it is for a good reason. A periodontist is a dentist with specialty training to treat disease that affects soft tissues in the oral cavity. Periodontists earn an additional degree in periodontics and perform specialized and rigorous training to practice as a specialist. This means that a periodontist can provide in-depth care to patients with complex and advances cases of gum disease.

When is scaling and root planing recommended?

Scaling and root planing is recommended when tartar accumulates beneath the gum line and along the roots of teeth. As tartar builds up and the gums recede as a result of inadequate oral hygiene and inflamed gingiva, the roots of teeth become exposed and therefore vulnerable to bacteria and harmful substances like tartar. Scaling and root planing is recommended as a method for removing plaque and tartar from deep within the gums and along the roots of teeth. It is also necessary for smoothing the roots of teeth to prevent the accumulation of new calculus deposits.
Scaling and root planing are actually two different procedures performed in tandem. A scaling treatment involves using small, very specialized tools to access the innermost areas of the gingiva and gently scrape away tartar while root planing involves filing the roots of teeth to create a smoother surface.

What is periodontal cleaning?

A periodontal cleaning is a deep prophylaxis that involves removing harmful substances like plaque and calculus deposits (tartar) to stop the progression of gum disease and improve overall oral health. Periodontal cleanings can involve a few different stages of treatment that include removing plaque and tartar from teeth as well as cleaning the gums and roots of teeth beneath the gum line. Depending on a person’s situation, root planing may also be involved in periodontal cleanings to smooth the surface of a tooth’s roots so that new tartar has difficulty reattaching.

Will my mouth be sensitive after this procedure?

After receiving a periodontal cleaning including scaling and root planing, patients may feel some tenderness in the oral cavity. This mild discomfort will subside within a few days as the gums begin to recuperate from treatment. Like other soft tissues in the body, the gums have blood vessels and nerve endings and therefore may feel sensitive just after treatment. Discomfort from periodontal therapy can be managed with a soft diet and over the counter analgesics.

What is periodontal maintenance?

Periodontal maintenance involves receiving periodic specialized cleanings and treatments for gum disease to control the infection and its destructive side effects. Most patients with gum disease will receive three to four treatments per year customized to their unique needs.