Periodontics is a specialty branch of dentistry that deals with the structures that surround and support the teeth, and the conditions and diseases that affect them. The supporting tissues as a whole are called the “periodontium” and includes the gums (gingiva) the alveolar bone, (the part of the jaws from which the teeth protrude,) the cementum (a substance that covers the root of the tooth,) and the periodontal ligament. A person who specializes in this field of dentistry is called a periodontist.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal diseases can range from simple inflammation of the gums to a serious disease that can lead to major damage of the soft tissue and bones that support the teeth. In the worst cases, it can even lead to tooth loss. Gum disease is actually quite common, and many adults in the United States today have some degree of periodontal problems.
Usually serious gum disease doesn’t occur until after the age of 30 or 40, although teenagers can develop the milder form. Men appear to be more likely than women to develop gum disease.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
Gum diseases are caused by bacteria that combine with mucous and other particles in our mouths to form a sticky colorless coating on teeth called “plaque.” Our mouths are great breeding grounds for bacteria, and gum disease can easily take hold if teeth are not properly cared for. Diabetes, smoking, certain medications, hormonal changes in females and genetic factors can also raise the risk of developing gum disease. If plaque is not constantly being removed through regular brushing and flossing, it will harden and form “tarter” which cannot be cleaned by brushing, and requires a professional cleaning by a dental hygienist.
If plaque and tarter are allowed to form on teeth and remain for a long period of time, they will cause great harm to teeth and gums. The bacteria will eventually cause inflammation of the gums, causing them to become red and swollen, and to bleed easily. At this stage, the gum disease is known as “gingivitis,” a mild form that can usually be reversed by regular cleaning by a dentist, followed by conscientious daily brushing and flossing. Gingivitis is not serious enough to lead to loss of bone or tissue that can lead to tooth loss.
However, if gingivitis is not treated in a timely manner, the situation can become much worse, and lead to a condition called “periodontitis.” When things get to this point, gums will begin to pull away from the teeth, and spaces called “pockets” will form and become infected. The plaque will spread and begin to form below the gum line, and eventually this will begin to destroy the gums, and the bone and tissue that hold the teeth in place. Eventually the teeth will become loose and will have to be removed.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Symptoms of gum disease include red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums, bad breath that can’t be controlled, pain when chewing, sensitivity to cold or heat, loosening teeth or receding gums that make teeth appear to be longer than usual.
For milder forms of gum disease like gingivitis, the main goal is to control infection. Treatment may vary according to the extant of the disease, but usually is handled with a professional cleaning followed by consistent daily care.
For the more advanced cases, a deep-cleaning method called scaling and root planing may be required. This technique scrapes off the tartar from above and below the gum line, smoothing over rough spots where germs may more easily gather. Your dentist will evaluate the situation and determine what treatment is necessary based on the advancement the disease.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, and you live in the valley or Reseda area, the services of Dr. Kass, a well-known specialist in the treatment of periodontal diseases in highly recommended. Dr. Kass will evaluate your situation, and will work closely with you to determine the best course of treatment for your particular situation. It is important to seek out professional help as early as possible, to prevent the situation from causing irreversible damage to your teeth.