Overview – What is it?
Periodontal disease or periodontitis is a bacterial infection that affects the tissues that make up the structure of the teeth. The bacteria that cause this disease are known as periodontal bacteria. The most common symptom for this disease is bleeding of the gum. To diagnose this disease, one needs to have their teeth and gums examined after which other tests like x-ray can be carried out. This disease can be treated by non-surgical or surgical treatments such as use of antibiotics and bone grafting, respectively. Practising good oral hygiene and having regular dental check-ups are some of the ways you can prevent yourself from developing periodontal disease.
Causes – What causes it?
Some of the causes for this disease are:
- Formation of plaque in the teeth or gumline which is usually formed when food particles come into contact with bacteria in the mouth
- Inflammation of the gum caused by bacterial infections
Risk factors include:
- Gingivitis which is a disease that causes irritation and inflammation of the part of the gum around the teeth known as gingiva. It can increase your risk of getting periodontitis
- Poor oral hygiene by not brushing, flossing or using mouthwash which leaves food particles in the mouth
- People who are 65 years and above have a higher risk of developing periodontitis than younger people
- Certain medications that cause dry mouth or changes in gums
- Certain health conditions such as HIV/AIDs and leukaemia which decrease the body’s immune system
- Substance abuse such as alcohol abuse and smoking
Symptoms – What do you feel?
- Bleeding gums
- Gums turning red, dark red or purplish in colour
- Pain when chewing
- Developing new spaces between the teeth
- Having pus between the teeth and gums
Diagnosis – How do you diagnose it?
It is difficult to diagnose gum disease especially in the early stages because the signs and symptoms are unnoticeable. However, the following ways can be used to diagnose periodontitis:
- Initial consultation: The doctor gets to understand your medical history and examine your mouth for any visible signs of the disease.
- Measuring pocket depth: This is done by placing a dental probe beside the tooth beneath the gumline at different places in the mouth. If the pocket depth is deeper than 4 millimetres, that may indicate periodontitis.
- Dental x-ray: To observe deeper pocket depths.
Treatment – How do you treat it?
- Non-surgical treatments: These are usually less invasive than surgical treatments. They include:
- Root planing used to smoothen the root surfaces to prevent the build-up of bacteria from continuing.
- Scaling to remove bacteria from the tooth surfaces and beneath the gums using a laser or ultrasonic device.
- Antibiotics to kill the bacteria that cause the disease and to control the infection.
- Surgical treatments: These are used to treat advanced periodontitis. The treatments used include:
- Bone grafting to help hold the teeth in place when the bone surrounding the tooth has been destroyed by the disease. The graft can be got from a person’s own bone, from a donor or it may be synthetic.
- Soft tissue grafts to reinforce some of the gum tissue that has been damaged. It is done by taking small tissue from the roof of the mouth and attaching it to the affected area.
- Guided tissue regeneration to allow for regrowth of bone that has been destroyed by bacteria. It is done by placing a piece of biocompatible fabric between the existing bone and tooth which then prevents unwanted tissue from entering the healing area and allows the bone to grow back.
- Flap surgery also known as pocket reduction surgery is done to lift back a section of the gum so as to expose the roots and allow for more effective scaling and root planing.
- Tissue-stimulating proteins which involves applying a special gel to the affected tooth root that helps in regrowth of healthy bone and tissue as it contains the same protein that is used in developing tooth enamel.
Prevention – How do you prevent it?
You can prevent yourself from getting periodontal disease by:
- Ensuring you brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft or medium brush
- Flossing at least once a day to remove food particles and plaque between the teeth and along the gumline
- Use mouth wash to reduce plaque and remove food particles that cannot be removed by brushing or flossing
- Understand your risk factors so you can better protect yourself from periodontitis by:
- Not smoking
- Avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol
- Eating healthy; more fruits and vegetables that are good for your overall health
- Visiting a dentist regularly for check up