What is Periodontal Disease?

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease, or disease of the gums, affects 47% of US adults ages 30 and up and an alarming 70% of US adults older than 65. Periodontal disease in its earliest stages is called gingivitis and is characterized by swollen and red gums that may bleed. In further development, gingivitis turns into periodontitis, which leads to bone loss and may cause teeth to fall out.

How does periodontal disease occur?

Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria that infect tissue around the teeth, resulting in inflammation and disease. Bacteria on the teeth forms plaque, when not removed in time solidifies into calculus, sometimes referred to as tartar. If this calculus is not managed, it will spread below the gum line and cannot be removed by brushing or flossing.

What are the signs of periodontal disease?

The following is a list of warning signs compiled by the CDC:

  • Bad breath

  • Red or swollen gums

  • Tender or bleeding gums

  • Painful chewing

  • Loose teeth

  • Sensitive teeth

  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth

  • Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you chew

  • Any change in the fit of partial dentures

How is periodontal disease typically prevented and treated?
The less severe gingivitis can be treated and managed with good oral hygiene practices and regular cleanings by professionals. More intense periodontitis may be treated successfully through medications, deep cleanings, or corrective surgery. The best way to ensure you are not affected by this disease is through preventive measures. Regular tooth brushing and flossing, as well as biannual visits to the dentist enables you to be properly diagnosed and cared for by a professional.

What do we do about periodontal disease?
Through examination of a patient’s x-rays, we can see the bone level and use this as one way to diagnose. In the images below, the right one with the arrow indicates the loss of bone in the dip, whereas the left picture is straight with minimal bone loss. The more amount of black space there is, the less bone someone has and the more likely they have periodontal disease.

The two images below show how we use a probe to measure out the pockets around a patient’s tooth. The different colors on the tool indicates ??? millimeter, thus the probe is ??? millimeters in length, with a healthy tooth measuring 3 millimeters or less. The longer the probe can be inserted in, the deeper the pocket and the less bone there is around a tooth. In the patient pictured below, the pocket was measured to be ______ millimeters, which shows periodontal disease.

The below chart shows the depth measurements of the same patient. Each tooth has six measurements for different areas around the tooth. As seen, most of the numbers are red because they are deeper than they should be.

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