The word periodontal means “around the tooth”. Periodontal disease is a condition in which forms of bacteria known as plaque and tartar (calculus) have infected the teeth and their supporting gum and bone structures. Plaque is a slick film of food debris, bacteria, and saliva that forms on the teeth all the time as you eat and drink through the day. Plaque becomes tartar when left in place for more than twenty-four hours. The two together actively destroy tooth, gum, and bone tissue. Periodontal disease, characterized by red, swollen, and bleeding gums, is so common that four out of five people have it but remain unaware of it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages.
In fact, the disease is so common that it is the number one cause of tooth loss. Additionally, current research suggests that the inflammation and bacteria associated with periodontal disease may affect other systemic diseases like stroke, bacterial pneumonia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and increased risk during pregnancy. Fortunately, good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits are easy ways to significantly reduce the risk of developing periodontal disease.
The following is a list of symptoms that suggest the presence of periodontal disease:
- Bleeding Gums: Gums should never bleed, even with vigorous brushing or flossing.
- Loose Teeth: Often caused by weakened periodontal fibers, the muscle tissue that binds teeth to the bone.
- New Spaces Between Teeth: This may be suggestive of bone loss.
- Persistent Bad Breath: Often caused by too much bacteria in the mouth.
- Tender or Receding Gums: Bacteria can cause an uncomfortable inflammation of the gums, eventually creating a loss of gum tissue around the tooth.
- Pus on Teeth and Gums: Pus is a sign of serious bacterial infection.
Once your treatment is complete, your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend follow-up periodontal cleanings, usually four times a year. At these appointments, the dental hygienist will clean the teeth of both tartar and plaque that could not be removed at home, protecting the gums and bone structure from further damage. The dentist will also thoroughly check the depth of gum pockets and look for any other signs of the recurrence or progression of periodontal disease.
During the periodontal cleaning process, the dentist and dental hygienist will also work through the screening process applied in all standard dental cleaning visits, checking carefully for other potential dental problems:
- Tooth Decay: All tooth surfaces are checked for weaknesses and decay with special dental instruments.
- Oral Cancer Screening: The face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, and gums will be checked for any signs of oral cancer.
- Gum Disease Evaluation: The gums and bones around the teeth will be checked for any signs of periodontal disease.
- Examination of Existing Restorations: Any fillings, crowns, or other existing restorations will be checked for problems or concerns, ensuring that they remain fully functional.
- X-Ray Review: Recent dental x-rays will be reviewed to check for bone loss and other hidden problems.
Finally, it is vitally important to remember that it only take twenty-four hours for plaque to set on your teeth and turn into tartar. Daily home cleaning is absolutely essential to control the formation of the plaque and tartar that lead to periodontal disease. Practicing good oral hygiene and following the recommended schedule of dental cleaning visits is the very best way to maintain strong dental health and eliminate periodontal disease.