What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is really nothing more than a technical word for gum disease, because in the language of health care and dentistry the word periodontal means “having to do with the gums.” However, just knowing that the terminology refers to gum disease does not in and of itself solve the riddle or answer the question regarding that gum or periodontal disease actually is, so let’s have a closer look at the topic.

We all know that teeth sometimes suffer from conditions brought about by infection, disease, and decay – and most of us have had to seek treatment from a dentist for such things as toothaches or cavities. These tooth ailments are generally the result of a bacterial infection, where harmful microbes or bacteria set up shop in or around the tooth and then create a diseased situation. As the bacteria goes to work doing damage, it can harm the tooth in a variety of ways that include piercing through and decaying the tooth or boring around under the gums to cause swelling and soreness. Once the infection gets through the hard outer surface of the tooth enamel it can move into the center of the tooth, which is comprised of soft tissue, known as the pulp. Once decay reaches the pulp, it can spread into the root canal and blood stream to wreak havoc in other places.

Periodontal disease happens in essentially the exact same way, except instead of getting to the tooth’s soft tissue last it gets to it first – since the gum is just a protective layer of soft tissue on the outside of the tooth that girdles it, helps sustain it, and holds it nicely in place. The periodontal tissue – not unlike the pulp inside the tooth – is soft tissue, and that makes it more vulnerable to attack. If the gums become infected, the infection will typically feed upon the gums, which only spreads the infection. As the gum disease grows it not only endangers the health of the periodontal region but it eats away at the defenses of the teeth and bones supporting the teeth, and that means that a simple gum problem can accelerate and make problems for your entire dental health. Left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss. Periodontal disease has also been linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and premature, low-weight births.

Deep cleanings of the affected areas are a good first step in waging an effective fight against even the worst cases of gum disease. This, along with three-month cleanings can manage periodontal disease in many patients. When deep cleanings alone are not enough, advanced periodontal disease can be effectively treated by surgical procedures that remove diseased tissue or build up lost bone structure.

But keep in mind the best way to avoid periodontal disease is to do the simple things like proper brushing and flossing. If you floss your teeth regularly that not only cleans them but it also stimulates the gums, increasing healthy circulation and blood flow and giving you great protection from periodontal diseases.

Dr. Kelaher

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