Periodontal disease refers to the health of the supporting structures for the teeth, specifically the gums and jaw bones. Among the causes for periodontal (gum) disease are genetic susceptibility, smoking, and other illnesses like diabetes. Periodontal disease is often episodic and will have intermittent periods of stability and disease. Periodontal maintenance involves removing plaque and calculus (dental tartar) from above and below the gum line to reduce the “local” factors that may facilitate the disease. Some gum diseases may be preventable with proper oral hygiene. However, what can start out as gingivitis (inflamed or bleeding gums) over time can turn into a periodontal condition without the proper dental care. In such cases, the attachment of the gum surrounding the tooth breaks down to create “pockets,” thereby making the area more difficult to clean and providing a habitat to harmful bacteria. Periodontal disease can also lead to prolonged bad breath, loose teeth, painful chewing and other long term complications which will affect overall oral health and stability of the dentition.
Diagnosing Gum Disease
The most important factors in diagnosing periodontal disease include evaluating the strength and levels of the bone holding the teeth; the health of the gums around the teeth; the amount, quality and type of the gum tissue; and the biting forces that exist. The hard tissues, or bone, can be evaluated with a complete set of dental X-rays. The health or breakdown of the gums is determined by a complete clinical exam including measurements of the depth of the collar of gum around the tooth, or pocket measurements, and an evaluation of the quality of gum in areas of recession (where the gum has thinned and moved downward exposing more of the root). Finally, an evaluation of the biting forces can help determine whether certain teeth are bearing too much of a load when the patient bites down. All of these factors play a role in properly accessing the possible extent, causes and necessary treatment to get the periodontal condition under control.
Often times treatment of mild to possibly even moderate cases of periodontal disease will be treated within our own practice, however if it is determined that more extensive treatment is required we will refer you to a gum specialist or “periodontist” so that your best care and treatment is coordinated with us.