While many threats could potentially place your oral health at risk, periodontal disease is one of the most common. Its severe form, known as periodontitis, is also the leading cause of permanent tooth loss in the United States. Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease forms when oral bacteria gather along the gum line and work their way underneath it, settling on the roots of your teeth. The resulting infection, known as gingivitis, is the first stage of gum disease, and is marked by excessive inflammation in your gums. If treated early, gingivitis can often be reversed before it leads to periodontitis. However, left untreated, it will progress enough that reversing it is no longer an option.
Causes of Periodontal Disease
A healthy mouth contains over 600 different kinds of oral bacteria, and a couple of them have been particularly singled out as the most impactful causes of gum disease. For instance, Porphyromonas gingivalis, a common contributor to dental plaque, is known for causing unchecked inflammation in oral tissues. When oral bacteria build up underneath your gums, P. gingivalis can inflame the tissues and cause them to bleed when you brush and floss. Because oral bacteria are the driving force behind periodontal disease, the best way to prevent it is to brush and floss your teeth at least twice every day and attend routine checkups and cleanings as often as your dentist recommends.
During a routine dental exam and cleaning, your dentist may notice redness and inflammation that indicates gingivitis. If so, then you may be able to resolve the gum infection with deep periodontal cleaning, or scaling and root planing. Your dentist will carefully access your teeth roots underneath your gums to clean the bacteria off of your teeth roots, and then smooth the root surfaces to prevent further bacteria buildup. Deep cleaning is more complex than regular dental cleaning, and may therefore take more than one visit to your dentist to complete.
In cases where gum disease has fully developed and periodontal tissues are severely compromised, a visit with a periodontal specialist may be necessary to effectively treat it.