The term “peri” means around and “odontal” denotes teeth; therefore, periodontal disease refers to an infection of the structures around the teeth. Periodontitis is a severe gum infection that occurs when gingivitis, the most common form of periodontal disease (i.e., gum disease), is left untreated. Periodontitis destroys the bone responsible for supporting the teeth and damages the soft tissue surrounding the teeth. Once these support structures are damaged and destroyed, the teeth begin to loosen, eventually leading to tooth loss.
The Support Structures of the Tooth
The support structures of the tooth include the gingiva (gum), the cementum (which covers the root of each tooth), the periodontal ligament (connects the cementum to the alveolar bone) and the alveolar bone (thickened ridge of the bone the contains the sockets of the teeth).
Gingivitis is characterized by irritation and swelling of the gum around the base of the teeth. With professional treatment and the implementation of a good home care routine, gingivitis can be reversed. However, left untreated, periodontitis may result.
As the gingivitis progresses, inflammation causes the formation of pockets between the gums and the teeth. These pockets fill up with bacteria and plaque. As time passes, these pockets deepen, which allows them to house more bacteria and plaque: If left untreated, once the advanced stage of periodontitis develops, the gum tissue and bone are being destroyed. Besides damaging the gum tissue and bone, the ongoing inflammation places a strain on an individual’s immune system.
What Actually Causes Periodontitis?
For the most part, periodontitis starts with plaque. Plaque is the sticky film that forms on the teeth when sugars and starches interact with the bacteria that is in the mouth. If this plaque remains on the teeth or under the gumline, it hardens into calculus (i.e., tartar). Once the tartar develops, it is more difficult to remove. Since the tartar is filled with bacteria, the longer it remains on the teeth the more damage the tartar can cause.
Unfortunately, once the plaque becomes tartar, it cannot be removed through regular brushing and flossing, a professional dental cleaning is required.
Risk Factors Associated with Periodontitis
There are a variety of risk factors that can increase the likelihood of an individual developing periodontitis. Some of these risk factors include a compromised immune system due to conditions such as HIV/AIDS, Leukemia and cancer treatments. There are certain diseases that increase one’s risk as well, these diseases include Crohn’s disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, the side effects of certain medicines (e.g., gum changes or dry mouth) increase an individual’s chance of developing gum disease.
Other risk factors include:
- Using tobacco (chewing or smoking)
- Age (adults and seniors are more prone to developing gum disease)
- Poor dental hygiene
- Substance abuse
- Malnutrition (including a deficiency in vitamin C)
- Hormonal changes (during pregnancy or while going through menopause)
Can Periodontitis be Prevented?
Yes, since these conditions usually result from poor oral hygiene with proper dental care both gingivitis and periodontitis are largely preventable.
Prevent periodontal disease by:
- brushing your teeth twice a day in two-minute intervals with a soft-bristled toothbrush and an American Dental Association (ADA) approved toothpaste that contains fluoride;
- flossing every day, preferably before you brush;
- contacting Lamas Dental Specialists at the first sign of gum disease;
- scheduling biannual dental cleanings and checkups.
The Symptoms of Periodontitis
Healthy gums fit snugly around each tooth, are pale pink in color and are firm to the touch. Early on, the symptoms of gingivitis and periodontitis are very similar (i.e., red, inflamed gums that bleed easily); however, as periodontitis continues to progress, gum recession causes more of each tooth and its root to be exposed. Spaces may begin forming between the teeth, which can cause the teeth to shift. In severe cases of periodontitis, tooth loss is possible.
Other symptoms of periodontitis:
- Tender gums
- Purplish, dusky red or bright red gums
- Pus between the gums and teeth
- Loose teeth
- Bad breath
- A change in bite
- Pain upon chewing
Common Types of Periodontitis
While this form of the disease frequently affects adults, it can affect children as well. Slow deterioration due to plaque buildup causes chronic periodontitis. If left untreated, the bone and soft tissue around the teeth is destroyed and tooth loss is likely.
This form of the disease typically begins during one’s childhood or once the individual reaches early adulthood. Aggressive periodontitis only affects a small number of people and it tends to run in families. This form of the disease progresses rapidly. If left untreated, bone and tooth loss may occur.
Necrotizing Periodontal Disease
A lack of blood supply to the tissue, ligaments and bone supporting the teeth causes this form of gum disease. This lack of blood supply leads to a serious infection, causing the death of these supporting structures. In general, necrotizing periodontal disease occurs when an individual has a suppressed immune system due to issues such as cancer treatments, malnutrition, or HIV.
Gum Disease May Be Linked to Serious Health Problems
Researchers have found a potential link between gum disease and other health problems.
Health problems that may be linked to gum disease:
– may increase the risk of ischemic stroke, which is caused by clogged arteries.
Heart disease and atherosclerosis
– may raise the risk of blocked arteries and cardiac disease. Also, periodontal disease may exacerbate existing cardiac disease.
– a mother with periodontal disease during pregnancy might have an increased risk of delivering her baby early. In addition, the baby may have a low birth weight.
– the bacteria that cause periodontal disease may exacerbate existing lung issues or cause lung infections to develop. In the elderly, bacteria from the mouth may travel to the lungs and cause severe pneumonia.
Furthermore, individuals with gum disease who have diabetes may find it difficult to control their blood sugar.
How is Periodontitis Treated?
At Lamas Dental Specialists, Dr. William P. Lamas offers a variety of periodontitis treatment options that are designed to minimize or correct as much of the damage that the disease has caused as possible.
Treatments for periodontitis at Lamas Dental Specialists include:
Scaling and Root Planing
– if the disease is still in its early stages, scaling and root planing may be recommended.
Laser-Assisted New Attachment Procedure (LANAP)
– for a more advanced case, Dr. Lamas may recommend the innovative LANAP treatment. During a LANAP procedure, he uses a specially-designed laser to clean out the pockets that have developed between the teeth and the gums. Once these pockets are clean, the tissue and bone are reattached to the roots.
If gum recession is present, Dr. William P. Lamas may suggest The Pinhole Surgical Technique or treatment with AlloDerm.
At Lamas Dental Specialists in Miami, Dr. Lamas offers a variety of conventional and state-of-the-art treatments to address periodontal disease. If you think you have gingivitis, or a more severe form of gum disease, attaining the correct diagnosis and undergoing the proper treatment is essential.
Individuals in and around Miami who are looking for an experienced periodontist should contact Lamas Dental Specialists at 305.440.4114 today. Dr. William P. Lamas and his staff are dedicated to providing each patient with a custom-designed treatment plan that is individualized to meet his or her specific needs.