What is Periodontal Disease

What is Periodontal Disease?

Causes

Warning Signs

Consequences of Untreated Periodontal Disease: Medical and Dental

Risk Factors

Prevention and Treatment

Periodontal diseases are mainly the results of infections and inflammation of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth. In its early stage, called gingivitis, the gums can become swollen and red, and they may bleed. In its more serious form, called periodontitis, the gums can pull away from the tooth, bone can be lost, and the teeth may loosen or even fall out. Periodontal disease is mostly seen in adults. Periodontal disease and tooth decay are the two biggest threats to dental health.

Periodontal disease is an “ongoing infection”.  With an ongoing infection, your immune system never wins the battle; the infection keeps growing and the inflammation never goes away. Periodontal disease is an ongoing infection in the pockets around your teeth. Your immune system cannot conquer the bacteria because it can’t reach the bacteria, like a splinter that causes an infection and without treatment, it will get worse.  Treatment needs to reach and remove the bacteria causing the infection.

A recent CDC report1 provides the following data related to prevalence of periodontitis in the U.S.:

  • 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease.
  • Periodontal Disease increases with age, 70.1% of adults 65 years and older have periodontal disease.

This condition is more common in men than women (56.4% vs 38.4%), those living below the federal poverty level (65.4%), those with less than a high school education (66.9%), and current smokers (64.2%)
 

Causes

Bacteria in the mouth infect tissue surrounding the tooth, causing inflammation around the tooth leading to periodontal disease. When bacteria stay on the teeth long enough, they form a film called plaque, which eventually hardens to tartar, also called calculus. Tartar build-up can spread below the gum line, which makes the teeth harder to clean. Then, only a dental health professional can remove the tartar and stop the periodontal disease process.

Warning signs

The following are warning signs of periodontal disease:

  • Bad breath or bad taste that won’t go away
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Painful chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Any change in the fit of partial dentures

Important Note: Your gums can look and feel quite normal and yet deep pockets of periodontal infection can still be present. To be certain about any periodontal disease, have your periodontist examine you for signs of infection.  Please call Dr Pamela Baldassarre if you are experiencing any of these symptoms for a comprehensive periodontal examination.  (for more information on what a comprehensive examination is click here)

Consequences of Untreated Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection with both medical and dental consequences when left untreated or not diagnosed properly.

Approximately 75% of all adult tooth loss is due to periodontal disease. When your gums and bone are damaged by periodontal infection, there is less support for your teeth. As this support disappears, your teeth first become loose and then can be lost. When periodontal treatment is recommended, it is important to get started right away.  The earlier the periodontal infection is treated the more conservative, non invasive and successful the treatments can be

Our goal is to eliminate and control your periodontal infection to prevent the need for further intervention. 

There are also medical consequences to periodontal disease. 

Periodontal Disease Leads to Tooth Loss:  

If the periodontal inflammation continues, you can start to lose your teeth one at a time. These lost teeth will have to be replaced with dental work, such as:

  • Dental implants
  • Bridges
  • Partial dentures
  • Full dentures

If tooth loss continues, it can cause you to need dentures. Many patients do not understand the full consequences of wearing dentures. There can be many problems with dentures including:

  1. Inability to eat certain foods
  2. Inability to feel and taste foods
  3. Lisping or clacking when speaking
  4. Bad breath or smell
  5. Pain or discomfort
  6. Unnatural looking teeth
  7. Self-consciousness and embarrassment while eating
  8. Having to take your dentures out at night for soaking
  9. Your spouse seeing you without teeth at night

Periodontal Disease Causes Medical Problems: 

“People think of gum disease in terms of their teeth, but they don’t think about the fact that gum disease is a serious infection that can release bacteria into the bloodstream”

Dr. Robert Genco, editor “Journal of Periodontology”

Periodontal disease leads to inflammation of the gums. This inflammatory bacteria then enters your bloodstream and travels throughout your body. Researchers have linked this process to a number of serious medical conditions. It is important to treat periodontal disease as quickly as possible to avoid the release of bacteria into your bloodstream.

Heart Disease & Heart Attack 
Recent studies have shown that people with periodontal disease are 2.7 times more likely to suffer a heart attack.

Stroke 
Studies have also shown that people with periodontal disease are 3 times more likely to suffer a stroke.

Pre-Term Childbirth 
Women with periodontal disease are 7-8 times more likely to give birth prematurely to a low birth-weight baby.

Diabetes 
Periodontal infection can raise blood sugar in diabetic patients. Periodontal treatment often results in a reduced need for insulin.

Respiratory Disease 
Periodontal infection in the mouth can be breathed in and increase the severity of such respiratory diseases as pneumonia, bronchitis and emphysema.

Cancer
Recent studies have shown an significant link between periodontal disease and several types of cancer. 

Periodontal Infection Is a Medical Problem

Periodontal disease is no longer thought to be just a dental problem. Researchers are finding many correlations between periodontal infection and serious medical problems.

Your Infection Can Be Transmitted

Research using DNA testing has found that 80% of all periodontal disease comes from bacteria transmitted from a parent or spouse. Patients with periodontal disease can pass their infection along to their loved ones.

Some Patients Are at Higher Risk

Patients in certain higher risk categories (see below) should pay particular attention to any signs of periodontal disease.

Those patients having a personal or family history of:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Premature childbirth
  • Diabetes
  • Respiratory diseases

Those patients having higher risk lifestyles, including:

  • Chronic stress
  • Smoker
  • Sedentary 
  • Overweight
  • Frequent colds, flu, etc.

Higher Risk Patients

If you have been told you have periodontal disease (or some of its symptoms) it is vital that you seek evaluation and treatment.

Risk factors

Certain factors increase the risk for periodontal disease:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Stress
  • Heredity
  • Crooked teeth
  • Underlying immuno-deficiencies—e.g., AIDS
  • Fillings that have become defective
  • Taking medications that cause dry mouth
  • Bridges that no longer fit properly
  • Female hormonal changes, such as with pregnancy or the use of oral contraceptives

Prevention and treatment

Gingivitis can be controlled and treated with good oral hygiene and regular professional cleaning. More severe forms of periodontal disease can also be treated successfully but may require more extensive treatment. Such treatment might include deep cleaning of the tooth root surfaces below the gums, medications prescribed to take by mouth or placed directly under the gums, and sometimes corrective surgery.

To help prevent or control periodontal diseases, it is important to:

  1. Brush and floss every day to remove the bacteria that cause gum disease.
  2. See a dentist at least once a year for checkups, or more frequently if you have any of the warning signs or risk factors mentioned above.

If you can’t afford dental care, you may be able to find help through the following sources:

  • The Health Resources and Services Administration supports a network of “safety net” clinics for people who qualify for reduced-cost care, and many have a dental clinic (toll free: 1-888-275-4772).
  • Most dental schools have a clinic staffed by the professors and students, where care is provided based on your ability to pay.
  • Your state dental organization may be able to refer you to dentists in your area who provide care at a reduced rate.