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Periodontal disease

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Periodontal disease is the name given to gum disease that eventually damages the bone and tissue surrounding the teeth. If not treated this leads to loosening of the tooth which may fall out in due course. In its simplest form it is inflammation of the gums. Continued inflammation makes the gums recede and cause pockets that are filled with bacteria and inflammation-fighting enzymes.

Symptoms of periodontal disease

  • Persistent bad breath
  • Red, reddish purple, swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums on brushing
  • Pain on chewing
  • Teeth sensitivity
  • Teeth that may be loose
  • Teeth that look longer due to gum recession

Cause of periodontal disease

The main cause for periodontal disease is inadequate dental hygiene. A thin biofilm or plaque is formed around the teeth. This plaque is a combination of food debris, saliva and oral bacteria. If not cleaned properly, this plaque tends to harden into tartar which can no longer be cleaned by simple brushing and flossing. The bacteria cause inflammation leading to gingivitis which can, with time, lead to periodontitis.

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Additional Predisposing Factors

It is important to note that gingivitis may not always lead to periodontal disease. Other than poor oral hygiene several other factors make some people more vulnerable to this disease.

  • Smoking: This is considered to be a prominent reason for increased susceptibility as well as poor response to treatment.
  • Other illnesses: Persons with illnesses like AIDS, cancer as well as diabetes are more likely to suffer gum disease.
  • Medications: Several medicines tend to lower saliva production. Low saliva and dry mouth tend to have a detrimental effect on dental health.
  • Heredity: Some people are naturally more predisposed to gum disease.
  • Hormonal changes in females: Fluctuations in hormone levels at different stages of life make women and girls more likely to develop periodontal disease.

Diagnosis of periodontal disease

Periodontal disease can generally be diagnosed easily through visual examination. The dentist looks for swollen and red gums along with a history of your symptoms. However a probe is used to measure the depth of the pockets that develop along the gums. This helps to assess the degree of damage. Additionally, x-rays may be taken to see the extent of damage to the bone.

Treatment of periodontal disease

There are several options for treatment depending on the extent of damage.

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  • A mouthwash with antibacterials for controlling bacteria is prescribed along with other treatment.
  • Antibiotic tablets are given to eradicate acute infection.
  • Antibiotic gels or chips that are inserted in the gum pockets where they dissolve slowly to release the medicine gradually at the site of infection.

Non-surgical Dental Procedures:

  • Professional cleaning by a dentist: In this tartar and plaque is removed from under and above the gum line by the dentist.
  • Scaling and root planning: This is performed under local anesthesia. In this tartar build up may need to be scraped off. This is known as scaling. In planing, the root of the tooth is smoothed out so that the surface is clean and bacteria free. 


  • Pocket reduction surgery: A tiny flap of the gum is pulled back to clean tartar and remove the pocket that has developed due to inflammation. This flap is then placed back so that it fits securely around the tooth.
  • Bone grafts: A tiny piece of bone is grafted to compensate for lost bone.
  • Soft tissue grafts: Tissue from the roof of the mouth is grafted in places where the patient’s own gums have been destroyed.
  • Guided tissue regeneration: A tiny fragment of fabric mesh is inserted so that gum regrowth does not crowd out space for the bone. This permits proper growth of bone as well as connective tissue.
  • Bone surgery: Hollows created in the bone are smoothed out after pulling back the gum, making it difficult for bacteria to flourish.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: Feburary 03, 2015

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