If the dentist detects a patient with periodontal disease, just what does that mean? How did this happen, or how did I get it? How do we cure it? What are my treatment options? How exactly does one detect periodontal, or gum disease? All these questions have been asked by lots of patients before and these questions are in one fashion, very easy to explain, and at the same time,  quite complex. This post will discuss in basic terms the root causes, diagnoses, and treatment options for periodontal, or "gum" disease. This post will also cover the risks of no treatment.

Periodontal disease is a disease of the peridontium, which is loosely the supporting structures of one's teeth, ie the bone which encases the tooth. This disease is caused by dental plaque. Dental plaque is really nothing more than aggregations of oral bacteria in a matrix, known as a biofilm. Am I losing you? OK. Well, this bacteria is a mass "clinging" to the tooth and gum. This mass of bacteria secrete substances that cause redness and swelling of the gums, and may erode the peridontium. ie the supporting structures of one's teeth. So, dental plaque causes gum disease.

There are various stages of gum disease, ranging from it's mild forms to the more severe. For instance, gingivitis is a common form of periodontal disease, marked by gum inflammation alone.  Periodontitis is a disease marked by inflammation and loss of support around the tooth, again, ranging from mild to severe. The two for instance, are not mutually exclusive, and often appear together. In order to reverse the damage done by dental plaque, there must be a therapy to intervene.

Periodontitis is a more insidious problem. As mentioned earlier, this diagnosis is marked by loss of support for the tooth. The real question is why do some patients exhibit periodontitis and others don't? The short answer is we really don't know. The disease shows some family traits, genetic. Family histories are important in discussing periodontal disease with patients. Biochemically, we do not know why this affects one patient, but not the other. Research is looking for an answer.

The front line therapy, or treatment depends on the exact diagnosis of gum disease. In recent years, various names have been given to describe these treatments, ie "deep cleaning", "soft tissue management", "scraping" etc. therapies range from oral hygiene instruction alone, or in conjunction with "Scaling and Root Planing", which constitutes placement of an instrument along the tooth, and removing the irritants along this surface. Removing dental plaque and "tartar" ( which happens to be calcified layers of bacteria) are the objective. Periodontal disease can not be "cured" but a patients overall gum health can be improved with this therapy

In the meantime, periodontal therapy is crucial. without this treatment, periodontal disease can progress. This can be noted by loosening of teeth, periodontal infections, pain, and if no therapy is instituted, loss of affected teeth may follow.

During a dental exam, a periodontal evaluation should be conducted to evaluate a patients periodontal status, and predisposition towards periodontal disease. Dr. Partrick performs these examinations routinely, as part of a patient's overall dental health. Schedule your dental exam today, so that periodontal problems can be headed off at the pass!