Periodontitis, also called gum disease, is an infection that damages the soft tissue that surrounds the teeth. In its mild form, called gingivitis, the gum area becomes swollen and irritated.
If the disease is not stopped at the gingivitis stage, the gums will eventually start to recede, exposing the dental root and leading to tooth loss.
When the inner layer of the gum and bone pulls away from the teeth, pockets that collect debris are formed and can later become infected. As plaque spreads and grows below the gum line, the pockets deepen, and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed.
Treatment for periodontitis will depend on the extent of the decay. Options may include nonsurgical procedures, like deep dental cleanings, or surgical treatments, like dental bone grafting.
Periodontitis is usually caused by poor oral hygiene. If food debris is not removed correctly, it can eventually destroy tooth enamel and lead to periodontal disease. Here’s how plaque advances over time:
- Food particles mix with saliva and bacteria, leading to plaque development that adheres to teeth.
- If you do not remove plaque by daily brushing and flossing, excess plaque hardens and forms tartar.
- Cavities and other types of dental decay can result from tartar accumulation.
- The accumulation of tartar leads to gum irritation, causing swelling and bleeding (gingivitis).
- If gingivitis is not treated promptly, it can advance into periodontitis and tooth loss.
Symptoms of periodontitis include the following:
- Swollen gums
- Redness in gums
- Bleeding gums
- Receding gums
- Tenderness in gums
- Bad breath
- Pus between teeth and gums
- Spitting out blood after brushing or flossing your teeth
- Pain while chewing
- Spaces between the bases of teeth
- Loosened teeth
The following factors can increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:
- Hormonal changes
- Having poor dietary habits
- Conditions that lower immunity, such as leukemia or HIV
Your doctor will evaluate your oral health and medical condition to determine if you have periodontitis. After assessing the extent of dental decay and taking X-rays of your mouth, an appropriate treatment plan will be developed for your specific case.
The appropriate treatment for periodontitis may differ based on the severity of your gum decay and your individual case. After evaluating your dental health, your doctor may recommend one of the following treatment options:
- Deep dental cleaning: A deep dental cleaning, or SRP, helps remove hardened minerals, such as plaque or tartar, from your teeth and gums to reduce inflammation.
- Restorative dentistry: Old dental restorations promote plaque accumulation and irritate your gums. Worn-out dental treatment will be removed through restorative dentistry, and new restorations, crowns, or bridges will be placed.
- Gingival grafting: Gingival grafting aims to cover exposed teeth roots and add volume to the receded gumline.
- Crown lengthening: If teeth have broken or cracked due to dental decay beneath the gum line, a crown lengthening may help add the needed tooth structure for treatment with a restoration. This may also help improve the ability to clean the area.
- Continuous care: Regular check-ups and dental cleanings will prevent dental decay progression.
Untreated periodontitis could lead to tooth loss and develop into other health complications due to the presence of bacteria. The infection could enter your bloodstream and affect other organs.
Following a consistent dental hygiene routine can aid in the prevention of gum diseases. To achieve this, Dr. Sunitsch proposes the following:
- Use the proper technique to brush your teeth twice daily.
- Brush your tongue.
- Floss twice a day.
- Refrain from consuming sugary snacks.
- Abstain from smoking.
- Brush your mouth after consuming acidic beverages such as alcohol and coffee.
- Schedule regular dental cleaning appointments with your dentist.
- Manage your sugar consumption.
- Maintain a healthy diet.