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Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection of the gums and tissues that support your teeth. It is caused most often by the build-up of plaque and tartar when teeth are not routinely brushed and flossed. Other contributors to this disease include medical issues such as diabetes and consuming too much sugary food or drinks.

There are two major stages of periodontal disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis affects only the gums. It is a mild form of periodontal disease, and if properly treated may be reversed. Left untreated, gingivitis turns into periodontitis. During this more destructive disease stage, bacteria penetrate into the deeper pockets of tissue where bone and membrane support your teeth. periodontitis can lead to tooth loss and serious health problems.

Research shows that 75% of Americans over the age of 40 have some type of gum disease which is the leading cause of adult tooth loss. It is possible to have periodontal disease and not know it because its symptoms are often painless. The best way to avoid or manage periodontal disease is by having good oral hygiene, and seeing your dentist for your routine dental checkups.

People At-Risk

You may be at risk for periodontal disease if you

  • Do not practice good oral hygiene
  • Smoke or chew tobacco
  • Have heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease or osteoporosis
  • Have a family member diagnosed with periodontal disease
  • Are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant

In addition, the following types of prescription drugs may also increase the risk of periodontal disease. Talk with your Dentist if you are taking:

  • Steroids
  • Cancer therapy drugs
  • Oral contraceptives
  • An anti-epilepsy drug
  • A calcium channel blocker

About Periodontists

Periodontists are qualified Dentists who have an additional three years of education and specialized training in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of gum disease. They also perform dental implant surgery and cosmetic periodontal procedures to help improve a smile. Your Periodontist will work closely with your Dentist to manage your oral health.

Warning Signs

Periodontal disease is considered "silent" because pain does not always accompany its warning signs. See your Dentist if you experience:

  • Loose or separating teeth
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Bridges or partial dentures that no longer fit properly
  • Fillings that have become defective
  • Recurring redness, puffiness, tenderness, or swelling of your gums
  • Bleeding of gums while brushing teeth, using dental floss, or biting into hard food (like an apple)
  • Gums that are pulling away (receding) from your teeth, causing them to look longer
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Persistent metal taste in your mouth
  • Pus between your gums and teeth
  • A sore or irritation in your mouth that does not improve within two weeks

Periodontal Treatments

There are many patient-specific variables involved with treating periodontal disease. Much depends upon the stage of infection and the amount of deterioration involving your gums, teeth, supporting tissues, and bone.

After reviewing your x-rays and performing a thorough periodontal exam, your Periodontist will discuss non-surgical or surgical treatment options to you, answer your questions, and explain what to expect:

  • During and after the procedure(s)
  • The number of office visits required for treatment
  • What to do at home as your gums heal
  • How to keep periodontal disease under control after treatment is complete