What is periodontitis?
Periodontal treatment may be required in the case of periodontitis.
Periodontitis is a serious gum condition caused by bacterial infection that damages soft tissues ultimately destroying the bone that supports teeth causing tooth loss. Periodontitis can lead to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke along with other serious health problems.
Periodontitis, although common, is largely preventable and is generally the result of poor oral hygiene. Brushing at least twice daily and flossing once daily along with regular dental checkups can greatly reduce your chance of developing periodontitis.
Factors that can increase your risk of periodontitis include:
- Poor oral health habits
- Tobacco use
- Older age
- Decreased immunity, such as that occurring with leukemia, HIV/AIDS or chemotherapy
- Poor nutrition
- Certain medications
- Hormonal changes, such as those related to pregnancy or menopause
- Substance abuse
- Poor-fitting dental restorations
- Problems with the way your teeth fit together when biting
Some complications associated with gum disease include:
- Tooth loss
- Coronary artery disease
- Premature, low birth weight babies
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Respiratory problems
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Some research suggests that the bacteria responsible for periodontitis can enter your bloodstream through your gum tissue, affecting your lungs, heart and other parts of your body. For instance, bacteria may travel to the arteries in your heart, where they might trigger a cycle of inflammation and arterial narrowing that contributes to heart attacks.
Diagnosis of periodontitis is generally simple. Diagnosis is based on your description of symptoms and an exam of your mouth. Your hygienist will look for plaque and tartar buildup and check for easy bleeding.
To determine how severe your periodontitis is, your dental hygienist may:
*Use a dental instrument to measure the pocket depth of the groove between your gums and your teeth by inserting a probe between your tooth and gumline, usually at several sites throughout your mouth. In a healthy mouth, the pocket depth is usually between 1 and 3 millimeters (mm). Pockets deeper than 5 mm indicate periodontitis.
*Take dental X-rays to check for bone loss in areas where your dentist observes deeper pocket depths.
The goal of periodontal treatment is to thoroughly clean the pockets around the teeth preventing further damage to the surrounding bone. Treatment may be performed by a periodontist, a dentist or a dental hygienist. You have the best chance for successful treatment when you commit to a regimen of good oral hygiene along with routine dental maintenance appointments.
If periodontitis isn’t advanced, treatment may involve less invasive procedures, including scaling and root planning (a deeper cleaning that is usually performed in quadrants at multiple appointments with local dental anesthesia or “numbing”). Scaling removes tartar and bacteria from your tooth surfaces and beneath your gums. It may be performed using instruments or an ultrasonic device. Root planing smoothes the root surfaces, discouraging further buildup of tartar and bacterial endotoxin. In some cases, Dr. Hughes may recommend using topical or oral antibiotics to help control bacterial infection. Topical antibiotics can include antibiotic mouth rinses or insertion of gels containing antibiotics in the space between your teeth and gums or into pockets after deep cleaning. However, oral antibiotics may be necessary to completely eliminate infection-causing bacteria.
In cases where periodontitis is non-responsive to non-surgical treatments or where it is too far advanced for such treatment, periodontal surgery may be required. In these cases, Dr. Hughes will refer you to a periodontist (a dentist specializing in the treatment of gum diseases).
Watch the video below to better understand periodontitis and its treatment: