Periodontal disease (also known as periodontitis and gum disease) is a progressive disease which affects the supporting tissue of the gums and the underlying jawbone. If left untreated, periodontal disease can result in loose, unstable teeth and even tooth loss. Periodontal disease is in fact the leading cause of tooth loss in adults in the developed world and should not be taken lightly.
Periodontal disease begins when the toxins found in plaque start to attack the gum tissue surrounding the teeth. This bacterium embeds itself in the gum and rapidly breeds, causing a bacterial infection. As the infection progresses, it starts to burrow deeper into the tissue causing inflammation or irritation between the teeth and gums. The response of the body is to destroy the infected tissue, which is why the gums appear to recede. The resulting pockets between the teeth deepen and, if no treatment is sought, the tissue which makes up the jawbone also recedes causing tooth loss.
Types of Periodontal Disease
There are many different varieties of periodontal disease, and many ways in which these variations manifest themselves. All require immediate treatment by a periodontist to halt the progression and save the gum tissue and bone.
Here are some of the most common types of periodontal disease along with the treatments typically performed to correct them:
Gingivitis is the mildest and most common form of periodontitis. It is caused by the toxins in plaque and leads to periodontal disease. People at increased risk of developing gingivitis include pregnant women, women taking birth control pills, people with uncontrolled diabetes, smokers, steroid users and people who control seizures and blood pressure using certain medications.
Treatment: Gingivitis is reversible using a solid combination of home care and professional cleaning. The periodontist may perform root planing and deep scaling procedures to cleanse the pockets of debris. A combination of antibiotics and medicated mouthwashes may be used to kill any remaining bacteria and promote the good healing of the pockets.
Chronic Periodontal Disease
Chronic periodontal disease is the most common form. Chronic periodontal disease is characterized by inflammation below the gumline and the progressive destruction of the gum and bone tissue. It may appear that the teeth are gradually growing in length, but in actuality the gums are gradually receeding.
Treatment: Unfortunately chronic periodontal disease cannot be completely cured because the supportive tissue cannot be rebuilt. However, your periodontist can halt the progression of the disease using scaling and root planing procedures in combination with antimicrobial treatments. If necessary, the periodontist can perform surgical treatments such as pocket reduction surgery and also tissue grafts to strengthen the bone and improve the aesthetic appearance.
Aggressive Periodontal Disease
Aggressive periodontal disease is characterized by the rapid loss of gum and bone attachment. Smokers and those with a family history of this disease are at an increased risk of developing aggressive periodontitis.
Treatment: Aggressive periodontal disease sufferers are far more likely to require a surgical intervention. This form of the disease is harder to halt and treat, but your periodontist will perform scaling, root planing, antimicrobial and surgical procedures in an attempt to save valuable tissue and bone.
Periodontal Disease Relating to Systemic Conditions
Periodontal disease can be a symptom of a disease or condition affecting the rest of the body. Heart disease, diabetes and respiratory disease are the most common cofactors, though there are many others. Even in cases where little plaque coats the teeth, many medical conditions intensify and accelerate the progression of periodontal disease.
Treatment: Initially, the medical condition which caused the onset of periodontal disease must be controlled. The periodontist will halt the progression of the disease using the same treatments used for controlling aggressive and chronic periodontal disease.
Necrotizing Periodontal Disease
This form of the disease rapidly worsens and is more prevalent among people who suffer from HIV infection, immunosuppression, malnutrition, chronic stress or choose to smoke. Tissue death (necrosis) frequently affects the periodontal ligament, gingival tissues and alveolar bone.
Treatment: Necrotizing periodontal disease is extremely rare. Because it may be associated with HIV or another serious medical condition, it is likely your periodontist will consult with your physician before commencing treatment. Scaling, root planing, antibiotics, medicated mouthwash and fungicidal medicines are generally used to treat this form of the disease.
If you have any question or concerns about the different types of periodontal disease and treatments, please ask your periodontist.