What is Periodontal Disease?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about half the United States population (65 million people) over the age of 30 has Periodontal Disease.  Periodontal or Gum Disease causes bone loss and pocketing around teeth.  Periodontal disease is gradual and many times painless so it can progress for years without being noticed.  Unfortunately, if periodontal disease remains undiagnosed it can result in tooth loss and other systemic health complications.  Teeth are stabilized in the jaws by a special type of bone, known as alveolar bone, and connective tissue.  If enough alveolar bone is lost, teeth become loose. 

Periodontal disease results from the body’s response to a build-up of plaque and tartar around the teeth at the gumline.  When food remains in the mouth following a meal it forms plaque.  Plaque, also known as biofilm, is a soft, white material harboring bacteria and serving as a source of infection.  Plaque may become trapped in the area just below the gumline in the space between the tooth and gum.  If not removed, this plaque will eventually turn into tartar, or calculus, which is white and brittle.  Tartar is tenaciously attached to the teeth and cannot be removed by routine home-care; it must be removed by a dental hygienist. 

The area between the tooth and gum is highly vascular and as tartar remains in this area it causes an inflammatory response from the body’s own immune system.  This leads to factors produced in your liver by the immune system which then travel through your bloodstream into the area of gum attachment on the teeth.  All of this an effort to fight bacteria present in plaque and tartar!    These immunological factors attempt to fight the bacteria present in calculus, but in doing so they also cause inflammation, bone loss, and loss of special connective tissue which attaches your teeth to the gums. This results in periodontal pocketing and bone loss, and the formation of an even deeper reservoir for tartar retention. 

Clearly, periodontal disease can become a life-altering disease if ignored that can negatively affect other metabolic medical conditions including  diabetes, high blood-pressure, and high-cholesterol.   The good news is many times periodontal disease can be treated non-surgically with a special type of dental cleaning called Periodontal Gum Therapy, systemic antibiotics, and excellent homecare.  Our practice is committed to treating these diseases proactively which means frequent dental check-ups, dental cleanings, and educating you on how to take proper care if your teeth and gums are diagnosed with periodontal disease.