What is Periodontitis?
Periodontal diseases (periodontitis) are infections that destroy the gums and the supporting bone that holds your teeth.
What Causes Periodontitis?
The main cause of periodontitis is bacterial plaque, a sticky film that constantly forms on the teeth. If the plaque is not removed, it can turn into a hard substance called calculus or tartar. The bacteria in plaque infect the gums and release toxins that cause redness and inflammation. This causes destruction of the tissues that support the teeth, including the bone. When this happens, the gums separate from the teeth forming pockets that fill with even more plaque causing even more infection. Periodontitis can also be caused or made worse by several other factors. These include tobacco use, genetics, stress, medication and other diseases such as diabetes.
What are the Symptoms?
Periodontal diseases do not always cause noticeable symptoms. Some people may have periodontitis but may be unaware that they have the disease until they see a dentist. Some people with periodontal diseases notice changes in their mouth including:
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Bleeding when brushing or flossing
- Receding gums
- Loose or separating teeth
- Pus or discharge from the gums
- Persistent bad breath
- A change in the way your teeth meet when you bite
Can Periodontitis be Treated?
Periodontal diseases can be successfully managed with careful treatment. The treatment of periodontal diseases can vary, depending on how far the disease has progressed. If diagnosed and treated in the early stages before significant bone loss has occurred, more complex treatment can be avoided.
Good oral hygiene and professional care are the keys to keeping your teeth for a lifetime. The best way to prevent periodontal diseases is to remove the bacterial plaque by thorough brushing and flossing every day. Good oral hygiene habits will help keep the formation of plaque to a minimum. Preventing or controlling periodontal diseases is a worthwhile commitment that will keep you smiling for life.
How is Periodontitis Treated?
Periodontal treatment involves meticulous cleaning of the root surfaces underneath the gums to remove plaque, toxins and tartar from pockets around the teeth. This procedure is much more intensive than a routine scale and polish, which traditionally occurs every three or six months. The treatment is carried out under local anaesthetic, to numb the area prior to treatment. This is usually the first type of treatment recommended for most periodontal patients because scientific research has consistently demonstrated that thorough treatment reduces gingival inflammation and pocket depths.
Will Further Treatment be Necessary?
Periodontal surgery procedures may be recommended if there are pockets that are too deep to clean with normal daily oral hygiene measures. The gum tissue can be gently folded back to allow further removal of the disease-causing bacteria before securing the tissue back into place. In some cases, irregular surfaces of the damaged bone are smoothed to remove areas where bacteria can hide. This allows the gum tissue to re-attach to healthy bone. Reducing pocket depths and eliminating existing bacteria are important to prevent damage caused by the progression of periodontal disease and to maintain a healthy smile. Eliminating bacteria alone may not be sufficient to prevent disease recurrence. Deeper pockets are more difficult to keep clean, so it’s important that they are reduced. Shallow pockets and a combination of daily oral hygiene and professional maintenance care increase your chances of keeping your natural teeth.
Can the Effects of Periodontitis be Reversed?
In certain cases, regenerative procedures can reverse some of the damage caused by periodontal diseases by recreating lost bone and tissue. During treatment, membranes, bone grafts or tissue-stimulating proteins can be used to encourage your body’s natural ability to regenerate bone and tissue. There are many options to enhance the support for your teeth and to restore your bone to a healthy level. Eliminating existing bacteria and regenerating bone and tissue helps to reduce pocket depth and repair damage caused by the progression of periodontal diseases.
How can I Prevent Periodontitis in Future?
Once the gum disease (periodontitis) has been controlled, most patients will require regular periodontal maintenance procedures to keep their gums healthy. This ongoing phase of treatment will allow the periodontist to assess your gums and make sure that the infection stays under control or remains eliminated. During these appointments, your mouth will be examined, new calculus and plaque will be removed and, if necessary, further treatment can be discussed. Without careful ongoing treatment, periodontal diseases can and often do recur.