In the US, an estimated 64 million Americans have periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease. This common condition is characterized by inflammation in the deeper periodontal structures and the gums.
When left untreated, periodontitis can result in serious symptoms that can eventually lead to tooth loss. But can periodontitis be cured? Here are the facts.
What Are the Types of Periodontitis?
There are three primary types of periodontitis that you should know about. These include:
- Aggressive periodontitis: This type usually starts during early adulthood or childhood. It is relatively uncommon but can cause rapid tooth and bone loss if left untreated.
- Chronic periodontitis: This is the most common type of periodontitis and older adults are more likely to be affected than children and young adults. It occurs as a result of plaque accumulation that causes a slow deterioration of the gums and tooth structures. If left untreated, it can result in bone and tooth loss along with gum destruction.
- Necrotizing periodontal disease: This form of periodontal disease involves tooth ligament, gum tissue, and supporting bone death as the result of reduced blood supply. It ultimately results in a significant infection. People with cancer, HIV and other conditions that suppress the immune system are at the highest risk. Malnutrition is also a possible cause.
How Do You Recognize Periodontitis?
When your gums are healthy, they are pale pink and firm. They keep your teeth in place securely without gum recession. If you have periodontitis, some of the following symptoms may occur:
- Puffy or swollen gums
- Gums that are tender to the touch
- Receding gums that start to pull away from the teeth
- Bad breath
- Dusky red, bright red, or purplish gums
- Easy bleeding from your gums
- Pus between your gums and teeth
- Loose teeth
- Teeth fitting together differently
- Painful chewing
In the most advanced stages, you may start to lose some of your teeth. It is also possible for the bacteria that cause gum disease to get into your bloodstream. From there, it can affect other areas of your body, including your heart.
What Causes Periodontitis?
Gum irritation that leads to periodontitis typically starts when plaque begins to build up. This sticky substance occurs as the result of an interaction between normal oral bacteria and the sugars and starches in the foods that we eat. If you do not brush your teeth regularly, this plaque will continue to accumulate and can develop into tartar.
Tartar is a hardened substance that can build up below your gum line. Compared to plaque, it is much harder to remove and can require the help of a dentist. As plaque and tartar remain in place, they can cause gingivitis to develop, which is the mildest type of periodontal disease.
As the gums become chronically inflamed, pockets can develop between your teeth and gums. These are filled with tartar, bacteria, and plaque. Without treatment, the pockets can grow deeper and increase your risk of infection and tooth loss.
Certain factors increase your risk of periodontitis, including:
- Chewing or smoking tobacco
- Menopause, pregnancy and other hormonal changes
- Conditions that can reduce your immunity, such as cancer treatments
- Poor oral hygiene habits
- Substance abuse
- Inadequate nutrition
- Certain diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and diabetes
Treatment Options for Periodontitis
Depending on the stage of gum disease, the condition is reversible for many people. Even when it cannot be reversed, there are many treatment options that can help to restore the health of the gums and teeth.
The primary goal of treatment for periodontitis is to prevent surrounding bone damage and to completely clean the pockets around the teeth. Stopping tobacco use and maintaining good daily oral hygiene are also important elements of gum disease treatment.
In the earlier stages, your dentist may be able to treat the condition with non-surgical treatments. There are three primary methods that they might use:
- Scaling: This procedure removes bacteria and tartar from below your gums and from the surface of your teeth. Your dentist might use various manual instruments or an ultrasonic or laser device to accomplish this.
- Antibiotics: Your dentist might recommend oral antibiotics or topical antibiotics to control the infection caused by bacteria. If they give you a topical antibiotic, it may be in the form of a gel that you apply directly to the affected area or it may be a mouth rinse. In some cases, you may be prescribed oral and topical antibiotics simultaneously.
- Root planing: This treatment involves smoothing the surface of the tooth roots to inhibit more accumulation of bacteria and tartar. It also works to remove the byproducts of bacteria that are delaying healing, causing inflammation, or preventing the gums from reattaching to the surface of your teeth.
If your periodontitis is more advanced, surgical methods might be needed. There are several options that your dentist may discuss with you, including:
- Soft tissue grafts: These are placed to reinforce soft tissues that have been lost due to gum recession. Your surgeon may harvest the grafts from your body or use donor tissue.
- Flap surgery: This is a surgical procedure that allows for intensive root planing and scaling.
- Guided tissue regeneration: This procedure is done to initiate bone regrowth. It uses biocompatible fabric to provide structure and support.
- Bone grafting If the bone around a tooth root is destroyed, bone grafting may be considered. It uses fragments of your bone or donor bone to reconstruct the jaw. The purpose is to keep your tooth in place so that you do not lose it.
- Tissue-stimulating proteins: For this procedure, healthy tissue and bone growth are stimulated using a special gel.
You should get help as quickly as possible for periodontitis so that you can minimize the damage that it causes. When caught early enough, you can also stop tooth loss from occurring.
About Periodontist Dr. John Paul Gallardo
Dr. Gallardo has been in practice for 25 years in Miami, Florida. He has extensive experience and training in treating periodontitis and other conditions that affect the gums and related structures. He is also a dental implant specialist. His office ensures the highest level of patient care, making sure that you receive a comprehensive, kind, and individualized experience with every appointment.
To assess the health of your gums and teeth, call Dr. Gallardo today at (305) 547-8687 to schedule an appointment.