What Is Periodontics?

Periodontics is the dental specialty focusing exclusively on the inflammatory disease that destroys the gums and other supporting structures around the teeth, including bone. These specific dental diseases require special help from a periodontist.

A periodontist is a dental specialist who possesses specific skills and has been trained in special techniques to prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal disease. Periodontists are also trained to work with dental implants, and they receive extensive training in each area. In fact, a periodontistry specialization requires three additional years of education beyond dental school. As specialists in periodontal disease, they are experts in the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease.

What Are Periodontal Diseases?

Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that can lead to tooth loss and is often a risk factor for heart and lung disease if left untreated.

Research has shown that periodontal disease may increase a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Both periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease are chronic inflammatory diseases, therefore, researchers believe that inflammation may account for the association between the two. Untreated periodontal disease can increase inflammation in the body, which may increase the risk of developing more severe health complications, including cardiovascular disease. (Source: American Academy of Periodontology)

Types of Periodontal Disease:


Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease. This type of periodontal disease is caused by plague, the sticky, colorless film of bacteria that is constantly forming and building up on your teeth throughout the day. It can be removed through regular brushing and flossing. However, if plaque is not removed, it will harden and/or calcify. This substance is known as tartar, and it will have to be removed by a dental professional.

Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. It primarily affects the gums and causes them to become red, swollen, and prone to bleeding, though there is usually little to no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.

Factors that may contribute to gingivitis (besides inadequate oral hygiene) include diabetes, smoking, aging, genetic predisposition, systemic diseases and conditions, stress, inadequate nutrition, puberty, hormonal fluctuations, pregnancy, substance abuse, HIV infection, and certain medication use.


Periodontitis

Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that damages the gums and can destroy the jawbone. The disease is common, yet fairly preventable. The cause of periodontitis is usually poor oral hygiene and ignoring the early signs and symptoms of gingivitis.

With time, the plaque found in gingivitis can spread and grow below the gum line. The toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque start to irritate the gums and stimulate a chronic inflammatory response, which basically causes the body to turn on itself. Later on, the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Eventually, the gums are separated from the teeth and spaces from between the teeth and gums. These are known as periodontal pockets. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed, advancing into periodontitis.

This destructive process often has very mild symptoms. If it is not detected early on, teeth can eventually become loose and may have to be removed.

Symptoms include swollen, red, and tender gums, bad breath, toothache, bright red gums, loose teeth, receding gums, and tooth loss. It can be prevented with regular brushing, flossing, and mouthwash use, and regular professional dental cleanings.

Treatment includes professionally cleaning the pockets around teeth to prevent damage to the surrounding bone. Advanced cases may require surgery, gingivectomy (gum tissue removal), and/or gingivoplasty (reshaping healthy gum tissue).


The Benefits of Periodontal Visits:

Like most dental problems, periodontal disease varies in its aggressiveness depending on the stage of the disease. There are three stages:

  • Acute periodontal disease: This stage is treatable and reversible
  • Aggressive periodontal disease: This is a highly destructive form of periodontal disease that occurs in patients who are otherwise healthy. Common features include rapid loss of tissue and bone and may occur in some areas of the mouth, or in the entire mouth.
  • Chronic Periodontal disease: Chronic periodontitis affects 47.2 percent of adults over the age of 30 in the United States. It can lead to the loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth, and it may become more severe over time. If it does, your teeth will feel loose and start moving around in your mouth. This is the most common form of periodontitis in adults, but it can occur at any age. It usually gets worse slowly, but there can be periods of rapid progression. This is the stage where the disease cannot be completely cured but can be controlled with periodontal maintenance for routine examination and assessment.

The disease can be treated, reversed, and eventually cured if it is detected before it progresses to a more harmful stage where the bone is impacted. The disease can even be preventable given proper oral care routine, including regular dental and periodontal visits. As mentioned previously, some periodontal disease symptoms can be mild and, therefore, often overlooked. Regular professional teeth cleanings and a periodontal visit can help maintain your oral health, as well as prevent chronic and aggressive gum diseases.

Keep your gum health in check and reverse gum disease for a long-lasting and beautiful smile — schedule a periodontics appointment with North Shore Smile Surgery today!

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