The term “periodontal”means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease (also known as periodontitis and gum disease) is a common inflammatory condition which affects the supporting and surrounding soft tissues of the tooth as well as the jawbone itself when in its more advanced stages.
Periodontal disease is preceded by gingivitis which is a bacterial infection of the gum tissue. A bacterial infection affects the gums when the toxins contained in plaque begin to irritate and inflame the gum tissues. Once this bacterial infection colonizes in the gum pockets between the teeth, it becomes much more difficult to remove and treat. Periodontal disease is a progressive condition that eventually leads to the destruction of the connective tissue and jawbone. If left untreated, it can lead to shifting teeth, loose teeth and eventually tooth loss.
Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world and should always be promptly treated.
Types of Periodontal Disease
When left untreated, gingivitis (mild gum inflammation) can spread to below the gum line. When the gums become irritated by the toxins contained in plaque, a chronic inflammatory response causes the body to break down and destroy its own bone and soft tissue. There may be little or no symptoms as periodontal disease causes the gum tissue to seperate from the affected teeth . Deepening pockets between the gums and teeth are generally indicative that soft tissue and bone is being destroyed by periodontal disease.
Here are some of the most common types of periodontal disease:
Chronic periodontitis – Inflammation within supporting tissues cause deep pockets and gum recession. It may appear the teeth are lengthening, but in actuality, the gums (gingiva) are receding. This is the most common form of periodontal disease and is characterized by progressive loss of attachment, interspersed with periods of rapid progression.
Aggressive periodontitis – This form of gum disease occurs in an otherwise clinically healthy individual. It is characterized by rapid loss of gum attachment and bone destruction. This form of the disease typically affects individuals in their 20's or early 30's.
Necrotizing periodontitis – This form of periodontal disease most often occurs in individuals suffering from systemic conditions such as HIV, immunosuppression and malnutrition. Necrosis (tissue death) occurs in the periodontal ligament, alveolar bone and gingival tissues.
Periodontitis caused by systemic disease – This form of gum disease often begins at an early age. Medical condition such as respiratory disease, diabetes and heart disease are common cofactors.
Treatment for Periodontal Disease
There are many surgical and nonsurgical treatments we may choose to perform, depending upon the exact condition of the teeth, gums and jawbone. A complete periodontal exam of the mouth will be done before any treatment is performed or recommended.
Here are some of the more common treatments for periodontal disease:
Scaling and root planing – In order to preserve the health of the gum tissue, the bacteria and calculus (tartar) which initially caused the infection, must be removed. The gum pockets will be cleaned to help alleviate the infection. A prescription mouthwash or antibiotics may be used in conjunction with this therapy.
Laser Therpay – This technique can be used for conservative access to the root surfaces for definitive cleaning of the bacteria and calculus. It may be used in conjunction with regenerative procedures to help restore the lost attachment tissues around the teeth.
Tissue regeneration – When the bone and gum tissues have been destroyed, regrowth can be actively encouraged using grafting procedures. A hard or soft tissue graft may be used in the affected areas to assist in the regeneration process.
Pocket elimination surgery – Pocket elimination surgery (also known as flap surgery) is a surgical treatment which can be performed to reduce the pocket size between the teeth and gums.
Dental implants – When teeth have been lost due to periodontal disease, the aesthetics and functionality of the mouth can be restored by placing dentl implants into the edentulous areas. Tissue regeneration procedures may be required prior to the placement of a dental implant in order to strengthen the bone.