v-smile1.jpgThe term “periodontal” means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Gum disease results in swollen, red gums (inflammation), bone loss and ultimately loss of teeth if left untreated. 

The infection starts when the gums become inflamed due to bacteria in plaque, a sticky colorless film that forms on teeth not properly cleaned. While this is often the main cause of periodontal disease, other factors can affect the health of the gums and bone including:

  • Tobacco use in any form
  • Stress
  • Genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Medications
  • Diabetes
  • Poor nutrition

Gingivitis is the milder, reversible form of gum disease. With gingivitis the gums become red, swollen and bleed easily, and yet there is very little to no discomfort associated with this stage of the disease. A good oral hygiene regimen and treatment from your dentist can reverse gingivitis.

Periodontitis is the more advanced form of gum disease and can be either aggressive or chronic. In addition to the signs of gingivitis, aggressive periodontitis results in extremely rapid bone destruction and gum attachment loss around teeth. Chronic periodontitis is the much more common form of advanced gum disease seen in adults.  In addition to the signs of gingivitis, chronic periodontitis is a much slower, more chronic disease that also results in gum recession and  deep "pocket" formation around the teeth where tooth supporting bone has been lost.

Treatment and Prevention

Good home oral hygiene habits and regular visits to your dentist are the best ways to prevent gum disease. Periodontal surgery may be needed to treat periodontitis when non-surgical treatment is ineffective. Pocket-reduction therapy, soft tissue grafts or bone regeneration procedures may be recommended to treat this condition. To replace a tooth that has been lost due to periodontal disease, dental implants are often the best option.

Daily brushing and flossing will keep plaque to a minimum, and in conjunction with professional dental cleanings and exams twice a year, you can keep your teeth healthy for life!