The word “periodontal” literally means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease (also known as “gum disease”, “pyorrhea” or “periodontal infection”) is an ongoing bacterial infection of the gums and bone around your teeth. This infection leads to inflammation under the gums and if not treated, this inflammation can destroy the bone around your teeth. This results in tooth loss. 75% of all adult tooth loss is due due to periodontal infection. More importantly, research has associated periodontal infection with several serious medical problems; including heart disease, diabetes and stroke. As ongoing research continues to define how periodontal disease is associated with these and other health problems, good oral health is essential. Good periodontal health is a key component of a healthy body.
How Does an “Ongoing Infection” Work?
When you were a child, did you ever get a bad scrape that became red and swollen? That was caused by bacteria that got underneath the skin. The area then became infected and inflamed. It may have lasted for days or weeks, but eventually the inflammation went away. The inflammation disappeared when your immune system conquered the bacteria and the infection healed. With an ongoing infection, your immune system never wins the battle and 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 fights a losing battle, and without treatment, it will only get worse.
What can cause a “burst” of infection activity?
People with periodontal disease have low resistance to periodontal bacteria. This causes an ongoing gum infection that grows in bursts of activity. Each time it grows, more support for your teeth is lost. Some factors that can cause a “burst” of activity are:
Poor Oral Hygiene
Stress or Tension
Getting Periodontal Infection Treated Right Away
When your infection has a burst of activity, or when there are signs that this is about to occur, your general dentist may recommend you see a periodontist.
Symptoms of Periodontal Infection
Periodontal infection is usually painless until it reaches an advanced stage. However, there are some symptoms that indicate the presence of periodontal infection. These include:
Red or swollen gums
Bleeding when brushing (pink toothbrush)
Aching, itchy, sore or tender gums
Receding gums (teeth beginning to look longer)
Pus between your teeth and gums when you press down on the gums
Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
Any change in the fit of partial dentures
Loose, separating or protruding teeth
Spaces between teeth
If you notice any of the above warning signs of periodontal infection, please contact your general dentist and ask them for a periodontal evaluation.
Who is a periodontist?
A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease. Many periodontists have also taken advanced training in the area of dental implants. Periodontists receive extensive training in these areas, including 2 to 3 additional years of education beyond dental school. Periodontics is one of the eight specialties recognized by the American Dental Association. Periodontists also provide other treatments, such as crown lengthening and bone regeneration.
This link contains “Frequently Asked Questions” covering general periodontal questions, periodontal procedures, and how periodontal disease affects general health. http://www.perio.org/consumer/faq.htm