About Gum Disease
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periondontal (“perio” means around, and “dontal” refers to teeth) disease is a chronic inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding tissue. It is a widespread problem affecting millions of Americans and is the cause of about 75 percent of adult tooth loss.
Periodontal disease is a particularly insidious disease. It often shows little or no symptoms in the early stage of the disease. The main culprit is the bacteria in dental plaque, the sticky substance that starts forming on your teeth a couple of hours after you have brushed. Recent medical research has linked periodontal disease to serious medical conditions such as heart disease, strokes and diabetes.
As a periodontist, Dr. Peto specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease and oral inflammation. His main goal is to save your teeth, heal your gums and maintain your dental health. He has extensive knowledge on tissue healing and bone biology, and is an award-winning researcher in his field.
The Stages of Gum Disease
Video: What is Gum Disease?
Healthy gums are firm, pink and do not bleed easily. Teeth are firmly in place with no damage to supporting bone structure. There are two major categories, or stages to gum disease: gingivitis [gum level infection] and periodontitis [bone level infection]. There are three levels of periodontitis: mild, moderate and severe.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease, caused by accumulation of bacteria on the teeth (plaque). It causes the gums to become red, swollen and bleed easily. There is no destruction of the bone or ligaments around the tooth at this point. Gingivitis is easily reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.
Because gingivitis often has no symptoms distinguishing it from the more serious periodontitis, it is important to get a professional examination to find out which stage of disease you actually have.
When the gum disease progresses to periodontitis, the bacteria builds up below the gum line, causing the gums to become inflamed. This stimulates an inflammatory response against the tissues and bone that support the teeth. As these tissues deteriorate, the gum pulls away from the teeth forming pockets. Bacteria grow rapidly in the pockets, further deepening them.
Dr. Peto can ascertain which stage of gum disease you have by probing the gums to measure the depth of the gum pockets.
Mild Periodontitis: In the early stages periodontal disease begins to destroy the bone and tissue that supports the teeth. Clinical attachment loss of 1mm to 2mm and there is evidence of bone loss.
Moderate Periodontitis: The destruction of the supporting bone and tissue has continued and the gum continues to fall away from the tooth. Dr. Peto usually finds moderate gum disease to have clinical attachment loss of 3mm to 4mm with bone loss.
Severe Periodontitis: In the most advanced form of gum disease there is extensive bone loss and tissue damage. Teeth often become loose and may have to be removed. Clinical attachment loss is 5mm or above.
What is Plaque?
Plaque is a sticky, colorless film consisting of bacteria that continually forms on our teeth, and if not removed by brushing and flossing, can form a hard buildup of tartar. This buildup irritates the gums, causing them to become inflamed and retract from the bacteria and the teeth.
What is Tartar (calculus)?
This is hardened plaque that lurks below the gum line, and if not removed, accumulates more plaque and causes loss of bone and tissue support around the tooth.
The Progression of Gum Disease—How a Pocket Is Formed
- Plaque (a sticky film containing bacteria) accumulates on the tooth around the gum line.
- The gums swell, bleeding a bit. This is gingivitis.
- In an attempt to rid the body of the invading bacteria, your body produces chemicals that, in addition to attacking the bacteria, destroy the bone and ligaments holding the bone in place. This causes the gum to begin to detach from the tooth and a “pocket” to form.
- The plaque in the pocket hardens with minerals and blood, causing calculus. The calculus serves as a trap for further plaque accumulation. The pocket continues to deepen.
Causes of Gum Disease
The most common causes of periodontal disease are genetics, smoking and accumulated plaque due to poor dental hygiene.
Poor oral hygiene: Infrequent tooth brushing and flossing, and irregular professional cleanings can cause plaque to build up.
Poor diet: Lack of proper nutrition may cause chronic adverse conditions, including gum disease. A well balanced diet featuring fresh fruits and vegetables can boost nutritional levels.
Genetics: An estimated 50% of people are predisposed to gum disease. However, proper oral care can keep the disease at bay.
Systemic diseases: Certain systemic diseases may contribute to periodontitis, including diabetes, respiratory disease, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders.
Smoking: A recent study indicates that the most damaging types of bacteria are found in the mouths of smokers.
Poor quality dentistry: Ill-fitting bridges and crowns may accumulate bacteria beneath their surfaces.
Warning Signs of Gum Disease
- Signs of infection, such as redness, swelling or pus
- Persistent bad breath
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Receding gums
- A change in your bite (how your teeth fit together)
- Teeth that have become loose
As gum disease worsens, it is not unusual for the inflammation at the gum line and the bleeding to stop because the inflammation has moved into the pockets.
Learning to Control Gum Disease
We can teach you how to properly care for your teeth and gums to prevent gum disease.
Dr. Peto and his team provide you with comprehensive education on how to control gum disease or prevent future recurrence.
To make an appointment, call 424‑229‑9875 or click here to request an appointment online.