What is Periodontal Disease?

If you are frequently irritated by bleeding gums when brushing or flossing this may be a sign of infection or a more serious problem like Periodontal Disease. Gums with a bright red or shiny appearance are one of the first effects of gum disease.

As gums continue to be infected they may begin to swell and make it hard to brush or floss in those areas. Serious gum infections may also cause mouth sores as the bacteria spreads.

Common signs of periodontal disease:

  • Bright red colored gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Gum tenderness
  • Swollen gums
  • Mouth sores
  • Bad breath

Bacterial plaque from poor hygiene can cause tooth decay and even infections in the gums such as periodontal disease. A dentist will evaluate the health of the teeth during regular cleanings and exams as well as the health of the gums and bone support.

Healthy gums rest close to the tooth with almost no visible gap. The dentist or dental hygienist will measure the distance between the tooth and gums to evaluate gum condition. Most dentists agree that 1-3 mm pockets between the gums and teeth without bleeding and recession are typically considered healthy.

When deeper pocket depths begin to form this is an indication of gingivitis or periodontitis. Dentists will look for pockets that are deeper than 4 mm and show signs of bleeding. These pockets cannot be cleaned with regular brushing and flossing.

Periodontal Disease Risk Factors

There are a number of factors that are associated with periodontal disease. These include medical conditions and other risk factors. Some of the most common influences on periodontal disease are smoking, diabetes and heart disease.

In addition, gum disease can be caused by stress and other environmental factors. Certain people however are hereditarily predisposed to periodontitis.

Medical conditions and risk factors that influence periodontal disease:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Respiratory Disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Osteoporosis
  • Stress

It has been found that more invasive medical treatments like radiation and Chemotherapy can cause periodontal disease. Patients that are taking medications frequently will need to be aware that these can also cause gum infection and lead to periodontal disease.

Medical treatments and medications associated with periodontal disease:

  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Special Medications

These are some of the most serious medical conditions that can cause an infection of the gums. However in most cases periodontal disease is normally caused by a lack of adequate hygiene and home care. It is important for patients to brush and floss regularly to prevent the advance of infection. Patients must also visit their dentist every six months for their regular examination. Most of the time the first signs of gum disease can be identified and treated by a dentist before periodontal disease sets in.

Once it is determined that there is a gum infection or periodontal disease certain steps will need to be taken immediately. A dentist may need to take periodontal measurements or radiographs to better evaluate the infection. At this point a dentist will recommend the next steps required to clean out and prevent additional infection.

Periodontal Disease Treatment

Periodontal disease treatment is called Root Planing and Scaling. This is one of the most effective ways to treat gum disease. Root planing and scaling cleans between the gums and the teeth down to the roots. In most cases local anesthetic will be used to numb the gums and surrounding area.

Maintaining good dental care after the procedure is critical to stopping the progression of periodontal gum disease. A patient can expect to make more frequent trips to their dentist every 90 days to have the periodontal disease treated.

Most dental insurance plans provide periodontal disease benefits. Periodontal benefits may cover from 30 to 80 percent of the treatment costs. Many plans require a deductible and copayment for these periodontal services.

Minor infections can be eliminated if identified immediately. The spread of infection can be prevented by making a dental appointment every six months and maintaining good oral hygiene.

Before undergoing Periodontal disease treatment most patients will need to review their dental insurance plan. As most dental plans only cover two visits per year the additional work usually must be covered by the patient. While treatment costs are usually not cheap, getting rid of the infection immediately will save both money and time down the road.