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Periodontology (Gum Disease Diagnosis and Treatment)

GUM DISEASES (Periodontal Diseases)

What is Periodontal Disease?
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Periodontal diseases are infectious diseases which affect the gums and supporting tissues.  They are responsible for 70% of tooth loss in adults.  If diagnosed in its early stages, they can easily and successfully treated.

The prevention and treatment of gum diseases additionally allows for easier chewing and better digestion.

Periodontal diseases begin with the infection of the gums (gingivitis).  In other words, gingivitis is the beginning stage of periodontal disease.  In this stage, gums are haemorrhagic, red, and larger in size.  They may not cause too much discomfort in early stages.  If left untreated, the disease may progress to periodontitis and cause irreversible damage to the alveolar bone supporting the teeth and gums. 

Periodontitis is the progressed state of periodontal disease.  Damage is done to both the alveolar bone as well as other tissues that support the bone.  A “periodontal gap” will develop between the bone and gums, which facilitates the settling of infection and spread of the disease.  As the disease progresses, the teeth begin to wiggle, and could lead to extraction.

What are the symptoms of gum disease?

  • Bleeding gums during brushing
  • Red, swollen, and sensitive gums
  • Gums retracted and distanced from the teeth
  • Infectious seepage between the teeth and gums
  • Wiggling or gradually detaching teeth (growth of gaps between the teeth)
  • Changing of relations between the upper and lower teeth during biting
  • Changes and deformation in the consistency of prosthesis
  • Constant bad breath

Aside from these, periodontal disease may also progress to later stages without any warning signs.  Periodic dentist visits are therefore very important.

What is the cause of gum disease?
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The most important cause of gum disease is the layer of sticky and colorless film that accumulates on the teeth, also called “bacterial tooth plaque”.  Removal of plaque through daily brushing and flossing is a basic requirement for a healthy mouth.  If plaque cannot be effectively be removed from the teeth, it turns into an irregular surfaced and permeable structure known as tartar.  Harmful growth secreted by the bacteria in plaque lead to irritation in the gums, thus facilitating the progression of the bacteria to deeper tissues.  As the disease progresses, the gap deepens and bacteria move further in, eventually leading to damage in the alveolar bone supporting the teeth.  If the disease is left untreated, the teeth will begin to wobble and may even require extraction. 
 
How can gum disease be prevented?

The most important role in the prevention of periodontal disease belongs to the patient.  In order to maintain healthy teeth, daily oral care procedures (brushing and flossing) are necessary to remove plaque.  Periodic visits to the dentist are equally important.

Daily oral care procedures minimize plaque formation, but may not completely prevent it.  Doctor assessment of areas unreachable by brushing or flossing is important in terms of removing plaque and/or tartar.

What is the treatment for gum disease?

Treatment in the early stages of gum disease consists of plaque and tartar removal and restoring of a healthy root surface.  This procedure eliminates the infection of the gums caused by bacteria and irritants.  This treatment is generally sufficient for the adaption of the gum to the tooth and the shrinking of the gums, therefore eliminating the gap.

In most cases of early-stage gum disease, effective daily oral care subsequent to tartar cleaning, removal of plaque, and procurement of a healthy root surface.  More advanced cases may require surgical treatment.  The purpose of this treatment is to clean the tartar lodged in the deep periodontal gaps surrounding the teeth, the elimination of gaps through shrinking, and establishing a more easily cleanable gum form.

Doctor visits following periodontal treatment are important in terms of plaque control and removal of new tartar accumulation.  It is important to remember, however, that daily oral care is more effective than any procedure in terms of sustaining oral health following periodontal treatment.