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About Periodontal Disease

Learn about Periodontal Disease and how we can help.

What is Periodontal Disease?

An infection and inflammation that affects the tissues and supporting bone of your teeth is known as periodontal disease, some people call it gum disease or “pyorrhea”. Proper periodontal treatment and maintenance are crucial to retaining your teeth. Gum tissue can react by becoming inflamed and red, or receding and exposing root surfaces. Symptoms are not always obvious and pain may not be a problem. If the periodontal disease progresses and is not treated, supporting bone may be lost causing teeth to shift, loosen and eventually fall out. When this happens, it affects eating, speaking and your overall health. Appearance may be affected also.

Periodontal disease is ongoing infections of the gums, if not treated periodontal disease can progress slowly in some patients and very quickly in others. Periodontal disease affects one or more of the periodontal tissues: alveolar bone, periodontal ligaments, cementum, or gingiva (gums). The initial stage of gum disease is called gingivitis and it is typically easier to treat, especially in the early stages. Gingivitis that is not treated will most generally progress to the more serious “periodontitis” if not treated.

The primary cause of periodontal disease is plaque, a sticky film that forms on our teeth every few hours throughout the day. The main components of plaque are food particles and bacteria. The bacteria in our mouth live off the food that we eat, especially carbohydrates. Bacteria is always present in our mouth and we are constantly forming plaque, even minutes after a cleaning. Bacteria colonize the plaque and produce toxins (by products) that attack our gums. Some people form it more quickly than others. Plaque that is not removed on a regular basis will harden and become “calculus” or what’s more commonly known as “tartar”. Plaque and tartar can occur both above and below the gum line. Our assistants and hygienists will instruct all of our patients in proper homecare techniques, that will help in removing plaque on a daily basis. Proper and complete removal of tartar can only be done in the dental office.

Because periodontal disease is often painless and doesn’t always present with symptoms, especially in the early stages, it is considered to be a dangerous disease. Most experts believe that at least 80% of Americans are affected by periodontal disease and 4 out of 5 are unaware they have the disease. People should be aware that periodontal disease affects adults primarily, but children and teens can also be affected, and juvenile periodontal disease is usually very aggressive!

Research shows that you can’t have a healthy body without a healthy mouth and periodontal disease generally runs in families.

Who Should Treat My Periodontal Disease: My General Dentist or a Periodontist?

Instead of leaving your treatment to one dental professional, you should consider having both your general dentist and a periodontist be actively involved in the diagnosis and treatment of your periodontal disease. This team approach will help your general dentist (who is familiar with your dental and medical history) and your periodontist (who has extensive experience treating periodontal disease) collaborate to tailor a treatment plan that works best for your individual case.

Is Periodontal Disease Contagious?

Research has shown that periodontal disease is caused by the inflammatory reaction to bacteria under the gums, so periodontal disease technically may not be contagious. However, the bacteria that cause the inflammatory reaction can be spread through saliva. This means that if one of your family members has periodontal disease, it’s a good idea to avoid contact with their saliva by not sharing eating utensils or oral health equipment. If you notice that your spouse or a family member has the warning signs of a possible periodontal problem (bleeding, red and swollen gums, or bad breath) you may want to suggest that they see the periodontist for an exam. It may help to protect the oral health of everyone in the family.

Types of Gum Disease

Learn More About Periodontal Disease.

The American Academy of Periodontology has put together a fact sheet to help you learn the commonly used terms.