Periodontal disease (also known as gingivitis, periodontitis, and gum disease) is a progressive ailment which attacks the gum and supporting bone of the teeth. You usually do not feel it, but if the condition is left untreated, periodontal disease can result in loose, unstable teeth, and even tooth loss. Periodontal disease is in fact the leading cause of tooth loss in adults in the developed world and should be treated as early as possible!
Periodontal disease begins when the toxins found in plaque start to attack the soft or gum tissue surrounding the teeth. This bacteria embeds itself in the gum and rapidly breeds, causing a bacterial infection. As the infection progresses, it starts to burrow deeper into the tissue causing inflammation or irritation between the teeth and gums, usually without any feeling. The response of the body is to destroy the infected tissue, which is why the gums may recede. The resulting pockets between the teeth and gum deepen and, if no treatment is sought, the tissue which makes up the jawbone also deteriorates causing unstable teeth and tooth loss.
Types of Periodontal Disease – There are many different varieties of periodontal disease, and many ways in which these variations manifest themselves. All require immediate treatment by a periodontist to halt the progression and save the gum tissue and bone. Here are some of the most common types of periodontal disease along with the treatments typically performed to correct them:
Gingivitis – Gingivitis is the mildest and most common form of periodontitis. It is caused by the toxins in plaque and leads to periodontal disease. People at increased risk of developing gingivitis include pregnant women, women taking birth control pills, people with uncontrolled diabetes, steroid users and people who control seizures and blood pressure using medication.
Treatment – Gingivitis is easily reversible using a solid combination of home care and professional cleaning. The dentist may perform root planing and deep scaling procedures to cleanse the pockets of debris. A combination of antibiotics and medicated mouthwashes may be used to kill any remaining bacteria and promote the good healing of the pockets.
Chronic Periodontal Disease – Chronic periodontal disease is the most common form of the disease, and occurs much more frequently in people over 45. Chronic periodontal disease is characterized by inflammation below the gum line and the progressive destruction of the gum and bone tissue. It may appear that the teeth are gradually growing in length, but in actuality the gums are gradually receding.
Treatment: Unfortunately unlike gingivitis, chronic periodontal disease frequently cannot be completely reversed because the supportive bone cannot be rebuilt. However, the periodontist can halt the progression of the disease using scaling and root planing procedures in combination with laser treatments. If necessary, the periodontist can perform surgical treatments such as pocket reduction surgery and also tissue grafts to strengthen and regrow the bone and gum tissue.
Aggressive Periodontal Disease – Aggressive periodontal disease is characterized by the rapid loss of gum attachment and the rapid loss of bone tissue. The disease itself is essentially the same as chronic periodontitis but the progression is much faster. Smokers and those with a family history of this disease are at an increased risk of developing aggressive periodontitis.
Treatment – The treatments for aggressive periodontal disease are the same as those for chronic periodontal disease, but aggressive periodontal disease sufferers are far more likely to require a surgical correction. This form of the disease is harder to halt and treat, but the dentist may perform scaling, root planing, antimicrobial, and in some cases laser procedures in an attempt to save valuable tissue and bone.
Periodontal Disease Relating to Systemic Conditions – Periodontal disease can be a symptom of a disease or condition affecting the rest of the body. Depending on the underlying condition, the disease can behave like aggressive periodontal disease, working quickly to destroy tissue. Heart disease, diabetes and respiratory disease are the most common cofactors, though there are many others. Even in cases where little plaque coats the teeth, many medical conditions intensify and accelerate the progression of periodontal disease.
Treatment: Initially, the medical condition which contributed to the onset of periodontal disease must be controlled. The dentist will halt the progression of the disease using the same treatments used for controlling aggressive and chronic periodontal disease.
If you have any question or concerns about the different types of periodontal disease and treatments, please ask your dentist.
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