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Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums that can progress to affect the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth.

GINGIVITIS

Gingivitis ("inflammation of the gum tissue") is a non-destructive disease that occurs around the teeth. The most common form of gingivitis, and the most common form of periodontal disease overall, is in response to bacterial biofilms (also called plaque) that is attached to tooth surfaces, termed plaque-induced gingivitis.

While some cases of gingivitis never progress to periodontitis, data indicate that periodontitis is always preceded by gingivitis.

Gingivitis is reversible with good oral hygiene. However, in the absence of treatment, or if not controlled, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, where the inflammation results in tissue destruction and alveolar bone resorption, which can ultimately lead to tooth loss.

PERIODONTITIS

Periodontitis, also known as pyorrhea, is a set of inflammatory diseases affecting the periodontium, i.e., the tissues that surround and support the teeth. Periodontitis involves progressive loss of the alveolar bone around the teeth, and if left untreated, can lead to the loosening and subsequent loss of teeth. Periodontitis is caused by microorganisms that adhere to and grow on the tooth's surfaces, along with an over-aggressive immune response against these microorganisms. A diagnosis of periodontitis is established by inspecting the soft gum tissues around the teeth with a probe (i.e., a clinical examination) and by evaluating the patient's X-ray films (i.e., a radiographic examination), to determine the amount of bone loss around the teeth.

Signs and Symptoms

In the early stages, periodontitis has very few symptoms, and in many individuals the disease has progressed significantly before they seek treatment.

Symptoms may include:

  • Redness or bleeding of gums while brushing teeth, using dental floss or biting into hard food (e.g., apples) (though this may occur even in gingivitis, where there is no attachment loss)
  • Gum swelling that recurs
  • Spitting out blood after brushing teeth
  • Halitosis, or bad breath, and a persistent metallic taste in the mouth
  • Gingival recession, resulting in apparent lengthening of teeth. (This may also be caused by heavy-handed brushing or with a stiff tooth brush.)
  • Deep pockets between the teeth and the gums (pockets are sites where the attachment has been gradually destroyed by collagen-destroying enzymes, known as collagenases)
  • Loose teeth, in the later stages (though this may occur for other reasons, as well)

If you suffer from periodontal disease, it is important to be aware of the systemic links that exist between gum disease and other health conditions. Studies show that people who suffer from periodontal disease may be at risk for developing further health complications in the future. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, respiratory infection, preterm pregnancy and increased effects of osteoporosis on the body are just a few of the health conditions that have been linked to periodontal disease. These complications, known as systemic links, can be prevented by treating your gum disease with appropriate procedures and hygienic care.

One of the non-surgical ways to treat periodontal disease is scaling and root planing. This is the careful cleaning of the root surfaces to remove plaque and calculus [tartar] from deep periodontal pockets and to smooth the tooth root to remove bacterial toxins. Scaling and root planing is sometimes followed by adjunctive therapy such as local delivery antimicrobials, systemic antibiotics, and host modulation, as needed on a case-by-case basis.

Portions of this article are credited to Wikipedia contributors. "Gingivitis." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 Oct. 2016. Web. 22 Oct. 2016.

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