What Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is a condition affecting the supporting areas around the teeth, also known as the periodontium. The word periodontium comes from the the words peri-, meaning “around”, and –odont, which means “tooth.” Peridodontal disease, therefore, is a disease not of the teeth themselves, but of the bone and gums whose function are to surround and support the teeth. Periodontal disease is usually caused by bacteria that are present naturally in our mouths. These bacteria live in the space beneath our gums alongside the teeth. When allowed to grow and advance, the result is the loss of the supporting bone and gums around the teeth. We see this most commonly in patients who have not had their teeth cleaned professionally in many years, which leads to buildup of plaque and calculus, which are a home for this bacteria to live. Recent further study of this condition has shown that there are cases of periodontal disease which is caused not by bacterial infection but rather by inflammation, similar to chronic pain or other systemic inflammatory conditions. Regardless of the cause, periodontal disease can have a number of negative oral effects.

Periodontal DiseaseWhat are the effects of periodontal disease?

Common effects of periodontal disease include:

  • Loose teeth
  • Gum recession
  • Swollen and tender gums
  • Pain in the bone and gums
  • Bad breath
  • System effects, including known correlation with increased chance of heart disease and diabetes

How can periodontal disease diagnosed?

Our doctors and dental hygiene staff at 44 West Dental Professionals are well-trained to diagnose periodontal disease. Diagnosis is made from a combination of x-ray and clinical examination, including evaluation of the bone and gum levels.

How is periodontal disease treated?

There are generally two different categories of treatment available depending on the severity and progression of the disease—surgical and non-surgical treatment. The goal of both treatment methods is to remove the harmful bacteria from the roots of the teeth and surrounding bone and gum tissue, as well as provide proper access for patients to maintain and clean the deep gum pockets at home.

  1. Non-surgical Treatment: Scaling and Root Planing

Periodontitis diseaseScaling and root planing treatment is performed by our dental hygiene staff. This refers to a careful cleaning of the root surfaces to remove plaque and calculus from deep gum pockets and to smooth the tooth root to remove harmful bacteria. Because this treatment is more focused and detailed than a typical dental cleaning, it is generally takes between two and four visits, depending on the disease severity. Numbing is often used as well to assure our patients are comfortable throughout the procedure. Scaling and root planing is sometimes followed by adjunctive therapy such as local or systemic antibiotics. Often times after scaling and root planing, many patients do not require any further active treatment. However, the majority of patients will require ongoing maintenance therapy to sustain health.

  1. Surgical Treatment

In severe cases or when the periodontal health does not improve after scaling and root planning, periodontal surgery may be needed. The goals of periodontal surgery are the same as that of non-surgical treatment—to remove harmful plaque and bacteria from the root surfaces of teeth. Periodontal surgery can take a number of different forms, but often involves adjusting or repositioning the gums to facilitate cleansing of the root surfaces. Periodontal surgery is generally performed by a periodontist, which is a dental specialist that has received specialty training to perform surgical techniques. We have fantastic relationships with several excellent periodontists in the Grandville and greater Grand Rapids areas and work together to improve the health of our patients.

What happens after the periodontal treatment is performed?

Periodontal disease is not a one-time disease that can be cured; rather it is a chronic condition that requires lifelong management to prevent it from worsening. The best analogy is that of diabetes: there is no single cure for diabetes, but rather a number of methods for decreasing its severity and preventing it from getting worse. In the same way, after successful periodontal treatment, it is important to manage each patient’s condition to prevent progression. The exact method to accomplish this will vary depending on each patient’s unique situation.

What are the benefits of periodontal treatment?

Patients suffering from periodontal disease can benefit from conservative periodontal treatment in a number of ways:

  • Preservation of the bone and gums
  • Tightening of the teeth within the bone
  • Reduced pain and bleeding
  • Improved appearance of the teeth and gums – less redness and swelling, reduced chance of recession
  • Reduction in bad breath
  • Improved oral and system health

How do I know if I have periodontal disease?

Dr. Jason Doublestein, Dr. Michael Wierenga, and Dr. Katelyn Trierweiler along with our dedicated staff here at 44 West Dental Professionals are trained to consider each individual’s unique circumstances and are happy to discuss if periodontal treatment is indicated for you. Give us a call at (616) 530-2200 to set up a consultation today.

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