Periodontal Disease and Maintenance

Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the supporting tissues of the teeth. The tooth has a naturally occurring gum pocket around it. When plaque accumulates around teeth and under the gums over a period of time the bacterial by-products begin to break down and destroy these supporting tissues (gums and bone). As these tissues are destroyed the gum pockets become deeper, thus allowing for more plaque accumulation which results in more bacteria and bacterial by-products. If uncontrolled, periodontal disease can become very difficult to manage. Typically periodontal disease is characterized as red, swollen, easily bleeding gums.

Periodontal disease is the leading cause of premature tooth loss in adults. Upwards of 60% of adults have some form of periodontal disease, most undiagnosed. The early stages of periodontal disease can be painless. Periodontal disease has recently been associated with many systemic diseases including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Risk Factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Poor home care
  • Some medications including steroids, calcium channel blockers, and anti-epileptic drugs amongst others
  • Ill-fitting or defective dental restorations
  • Systemic illnesses including diabetes

Warning Signs

  • Red, swollen gums
  • Gums that easily bleed even during brushing
  • Recently loose teeth
  • New spaces between teeth
  • Bad breath

Treatment can include deep gum cleanings, local application of antibitotics, and in more severe cases gum surgery. The goal of the therapy is to arrest the disease process.

Maintenance cleanings, typically at 3 month intervals, are very important. This disease tends to be very cyclical, gum pocket depths can vary from maintenance cleaning to maintenance cleaning. Thus it is imperative that patients diagnosed with periodontal disease are monitored very closely.