What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is a bacterial infection that affects the gums, bone, and the overall foundation of the teeth.
This infection invades the gum tissue and makes its way into the bone which destroys the surrounding areas of the teeth and eventually leads to tooth loss. Periodontal disease can be hard for patients to spot, since it is commonly painless, even in advanced stages.
There are a few signs of gum disease to watch for. Typical symptoms of periodontal disease include:
According to the CDC, about half of the population of people ages 30 and older are estimated to have some form of periodontal disease and that increases in prevalence to about 75-80% in the population of ages 65 and older (1).
There are four main contributing factors of periodontal disease: this includes the amount of time between cleanings, lack of proper home care, decay/breakdown of the tooth structure or restorations and the patients overall health. The same bacteria that contributes to periodontal disease has been known to correlate to other health conditions and/or increase the risk of developing heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimers.
Periodontal disease is diagnosed by your dentist and hygienist working together. They will make sure to have up-to-date x-rays to evaluate the bone level and will take measurements of the space between the tooth and the gum tissue. Healthy measurements are between 1-3mm, showing that you are able to adequately clean the space between the teeth and gum tissue with routine brushing and flossing. If the measurements are 4-6mm or above, then this shows there is an infection present in the gum tissue. At this point, the doctor and hygienist will review what could be done to help get the teeth and gum tissue back to a healthier state. Periodontal disease is a lifelong condition that once diagnosed does not go away- instead we work together to put it in remission and maintain the bone levels and healthier state of the gum tissue with regular maintenance cleanings.
Although routine cleanings are done to prevent periodontal (gum) disease, scaling and root planing, known as an SRP or “deep cleaning”, is used to help treat and prevent the spread of gum disease.
At Burns Dentistry, we employ the latest technology to ensure proper treatment, including the use of lasers. Treatment of active periodontal disease includes completing periodontal therapies with your hygienist. You will have four separate appointments, allowing the hygenist to treat and clean each "quad" section of your mouth. This allows the hygenist to treat, and retreat each section to ensure the best results. During these visits, the hygienist will clean your teeth getting below the gumline, and onto the root surfaces. Once the surfaces are smooth and the tartar is removed, the laser can then be utilized in these areas. The laser works inside the pocket areas between the teeth and tissue to reduce the bacteria that resides inside the gums.
At your last visit of periodontal therapies, we are able to place localized antibiotics, if needed, which are used to help sterilize the pocket space allowing your body to only need to focus on healing. From there, you will be closely monitored with frequent maintenance visits and guidance on proper home care to help keep this disease in a state of remission. If maintenance appointments are not followed, periodontal therapies may be needed again or surgical intervention with our periodontist. With some advanced cases we may also utilize a procedure known as Oral DNA, which is where we gather a salivary sample and send it off to a lab which tests to see if any of the 7 different bacterias that cause periodontal disease are over the threshold of where they should be. This will give us a detailed roadmap and coincide with the periodontal therapies or surgical intervention to help us get this disease in remission.
Once diagnosed with periodontal disease, it is something that is always there and it never goes away- as once bone is gone- we cannot get it back. We work hard to keep the patient’s periodontal disease in a state of remission rather than active infection. We do this by maintaining more frequent cleanings every 3 to 4 months and by working hard to maintain adequate home care which can help reduce risk factors that contribute to periodontal disease. When returning for cleanings, you and your hygienist will complete a periodontal maintenance cleaning. This type of cleaning will allow your hygienist to maintain your history of bone loss, cleaning below the gumline, and treat localized areas that become an active periodontal infection. This is different from a preventative cleaning known as a prophylaxis or “regular cleaning”, as we are no longer preventing the infection but rather maintaining it. But fear not, together, you and your hygienist can work towards the ultimate goal of a healthy mouth and body.
About the author:
Alyssa Richardson has been in the dental field since 2008 as both a dental assistant and Dental Hygienist. She attended Phoenix College Dental Hygiene Program and graduated from the Honors Program. She then continued on to finish her Bachelor’s Degree in Dental Hygiene from Northern Arizona University. She is currently a member of the dental hygiene committee for the Arizona State Dental Board and is a recipient of the Hu Friedy Golden Scaler award in 2012.
With a fully trained dental team and an in-house lab to deliver every type of dental procedure, we are fully equipped to customize an exact plan for you and your mouth. At Burns Dentistry, we know that every patient is different and that is why we’ve gone through the care and training to make sure we can deliver exactly what you need. With a personalized treatment plan, you can have the information you need to make an educated decision about your health and your future, with no pressure on our end.