Understanding Periodontal Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options
Twice-daily brushing and flossing go a long way in preserving the pearly white beauty of your smile. It’s also instrumental in helping prevent periodontal disease, a leading cause of tooth loss. Despite the dual aesthetic and health benefits role that brushing and flossing provide, more than 60% of U.S. adults over age 35 are living with some form of periodontal disease.
Marco Island dentist Dr. Jonathan Van Dyke address periodontal disease daily with their southwest Florida area patients. Periodontal treatment is a core focus of their clinic’s practice, and they strive to proactively protect all their patients from its ravages. Forewarned is forearmed, so read on to learn more about this common oral health disease and take the recommended steps to keep it at bay.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Commonly referred to as “gum disease,” periodontal disease is a progressive inflammatory condition that affects the gums, periodontal ligament, and the bone tissue supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease is primarily caused by the build-up of bacteria in the mouth. When this bacterium is not disrupted by brushing and flossing, it forms a film over the teeth called plaque. Over time, this plaque solidifies into a substance called tartar, which can spread beneath the gum line. In all its stages, these bacteria can cause an inflammatory infection, which compromises the gum and bone tissues. When left untreated and allowed to spread beneath the gum line, the disease causes the gums to pull away from the teeth and slowly erodes the supporting bone structure. Deep into this stage, known as periodontitis, teeth can loosen and even fall out.
Poor oral hygiene—failure to brush and floss regularly and avoiding dental checkups—is the most significant risk factor for periodontal disease. Other factors that can increase the risk of coming down with gum disease include:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Crooked teeth
- Dry mouth
- Defective fillings
Symptoms Linked to Periodontal Disease
The most common symptoms people experience in the early stages of periodontal disease are red, swollen gums that sometimes bleed. As the disease progresses, other symptoms that typically become apparent include:
- Increased gum tenderness
- Sensitive teeth
- Painful chewing
- Persistent bad breath and/or foul taste in the mouth
- Gums that pull away from the teeth
- Loose teeth
- Changes in how your teeth bite
- Shifts in the fit of partial dentures
Periodontal Disease Stages
As a progressive condition, periodontal disease advances in four predictable stages. The first stage is called gingivitis, in which the plaque starts to cause infection but hasn’t spread beneath the gums. This stage is marked by reddening and swelling of the gums and possible bleeding when brushing and flossing.
In the second stage, called mild periodontitis, the bacteria-laden plaque has seeped beneath the gums, creating pockets between the gums and teeth. Because regular brushing and flossing cannot reach these areas, the plaque and bacteria thrive, and the resultant infection can start damaging gum and bone tissue.
The third stage, moderate periodontitis, is marked by increasing damage to the teeth-supporting ligaments, gum tissue, and bone. Pain typically becomes more noticeable by this point, and persistent bad breath and other signs of infection become more apparent.
With the last stage of advanced periodontitis, the resultant bone loss is getting so severe that teeth loosen and will eventually fall out without professional dental care.
Catch it Early to Limit its Potential Damage
The sooner you recognize periodontal disease and begin treating it, the easier it is to manage it going forward. Generally speaking, if gum disease is detected and treated in the gingivitis stage, its effects can be reversed by scheduling regular checkups with professional cleaning and being diligent with a twice-or-more daily brushing and flossing routine.
When diagnosed in the later stages, it is usually treated as a life-long concern. However, once initially treated, you and your dentist can work together to ensure it does not progress further.
Island Tower Dentistry can diagnose gum disease and begin treatment as soon as symptoms are identified. Our Marco Island clinic also offers gum disease DNA testing to determine how susceptible a patient might be to the disease and begin proactive treatment accordingly.
Primary Treatment Options
While gingivitis can be proactively treated with standard dentistry practices, treatment for later periodontal disease stages requires more intensive work. Those with stage two gum disease can benefit from scaling and root planing. This involves deep cleaning beneath the gumline to remove plaque from the teeth’s upper root sections and then smoothing out the areas cleaned to prevent bacteria from reattaching.
Pocket reduction surgery helps address stage three and four gum disease by removing plaque and tartar that have formed so deep below the gum line that incisions are needed to reach them. Once these deep pockets have been exposed, your periodontist cleans out the plaque, tartar, and bacteria and then smooths out the exposed tooth roots to hinder the return of the gum disease catalysts.
A non-surgical option to pocket reduction surgery is FDA-approved LANAP laser gum disease treatment. Offered by Island Tower Dentistry, this innovative treatment destroys the bacteria causing the disease and promotes the regeneration of gum and bone tissue damaged by the disease.
Stage four gum disease that has already caused significant damage to gum and bone tissue usually requires extensive work from a periodontist. Treatments designed to curb the gum disease and restore damaged tissues include:
- Bone grafting
- Gum grafting
- Guided tissue regeneration
- Platelet-rich fibrin and platelet-rich plasma therapies
Protect Your Gums with Island Tower Dentistry
Periodontal disease can be prevented with vigorous attention to daily oral health care and regular professional cleaning. Those who may be more prone to gum disease due to genetics or other factors should schedule professional dental cleanings more frequently. And anyone who smokes reduces their gum disease risk by quitting.
To learn more about Island Tower Dentistry’s periodontal treatment or other dental services, schedule an appointment with Dr. Van Dyke. For optimal dental health care in the Marco Island, Florida, area, contact Island Tower Dentistry today at 239-394-1004.