accessibility ACCESSIBILITY
David H. Spring, DMD MAGD
Gentle Dentistry in Dallas, Pa
Creating Beautiful Healthy Smiles

What is Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

The term “periodontal”means “around the tooth.”  Periodontal disease (Periodontitis or gum disease) is an inflammatory condition which affects the supporting and surrounding soft and hard tissues of the tooth.

Periodontal disease is most often preceded by gingivitis which is a bacterial infection of the gum tissue.  The bacterial infection affects the gums when the toxins are released and begin to irritate and inflame the gum tissues.  Once this bacterial infection colonizes in the gum pockets next to the teeth, it becomes much more difficult to remove and treat.  Periodontal disease is a progressive condition that eventually leads to the destruction of the connective tissue and jawbone.  If left untreated, it can lead to shifting teeth, loose teeth and eventually tooth loss.

Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the developed world and should always be promptly treated.

Types of Periodontal Disease

When left untreated, gingivitis (gum inflammation) can spread to below the gum line.  When the gums become irritated by the toxins contained in plaque, a chronic inflammatory response causes the body to break down and destroy its own bone and soft tissue.  There may be little or no symptoms as periodontal disease causes the teeth to separate from the infected gum tissue.  Deepening pockets between the gums and teeth are generally indicative that soft tissue and bone is being destroyed by periodontal disease.

Here are some of the most common types of periodontal disease:

  • Chronic periodontitis – Inflammation within supporting tissues cause deep pockets and gum recession.  It may appear the teeth are lengthening, but in actuality, the gums (gingiva) are receding.  This is the most common form of periodontal disease and is characterized by progressive loss of attachment, interspersed with periods of rapid progression.

  • Aggressive periodontitis – This form of gum disease occurs in an otherwise clinically healthy individual.  It is characterized by rapid loss of gum attachment, chronic bone destruction and familial aggregation.

  • Necrotizing periodontitis – This form of periodontal disease most often occurs in individuals suffering from systemic conditions such as HIV, immunosuppression and malnutrition.  Necrosis (tissue death) occurs in the periodontal ligament, alveolar bone and gingival tissues.

Treatment for Periodontal Disease

There are many nonsurgical and surgical treatments that can be performed depending upon the exact condition of the teeth, gums and jawbone.  A complete periodontal exam of the mouth will be done before any treatment is performed or recommended.  In some cases a referral to a periodontist (a gum specialist) may be needed.

Here are some of the more common treatments for periodontal disease:

  • Scaling and root planing – In order to preserve the health of the gum tissue, the bacteria and calculus (tartar) which initially caused the infection, must be removed.  The gum pockets will be cleaned and treated with antibiotics as necessary to help alleviate the infection.  A prescription mouthwash may be incorporated into daily cleaning routines.

  • Tissue regeneration – When the bone and gum tissues have been destroyed, regrowth can be actively encouraged using grafting procedures.  This is done in certain situations only. 
  •  
  • Pocket elimination surgery – Pocket elimination surgery (also known as flap surgery) is a surgical treatment which can be performed to reduce the pocket size between the teeth and gums.  Surgery on the jawbone is another option which serves to eliminate indentations in the bone which foster the colonization of bacteria.  This creates an area that is easily maintained by the patient.

Ask your dentist if you have questions or concerns about periodontal disease, periodontal treatment, or dental implants.

Testimonials

View More