What is periodontitis
Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. Periodontitis can cause tooth loss or worse, an increased risk of heart attack or stroke and other serious health problems.
Periodontitis is common but largely preventable. Periodontitis is usually the result of poor oral hygiene. Brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily and getting regular dental checkups can greatly reduce your chance of developing periodontitis.
Signs and symptoms of periodontitis can include:
- Swollen gums.
- Bright red or purplish gums.
- Gums that feel tender when touched.
- Gums that pull away from your teeth (recede), making your teeth look longer than normal.
- New spaces developing between your teeth.
- Pus between your teeth and gums.
- Bad breath.
- Bad taste in your mouth.
- Loose teeth.
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.
When to see a dentist
Healthy gums are firm and pale pink. If your gums are puffy, dusky red and bleed easily, or show other signs or symptoms of periodontitis, see your dentist soon.
The sooner you seek care, the better your chances of reversing damage from periodontitis, potentially preventing other serious health problems.
The goal of periodontal treatments is to thoroughly clean the pockets around teeth and prevent damage to surrounding bone. Treatment may be performed by a periodontist, a dentist or a dental hygienist. You have the best chance for successful treatment when you adopt a daily routine of good oral care.
Non surgical treatments
If periodontitis isn’t advanced, treatment may involve less invasive procedures, including:
Scaling. Scaling removes calculus and bacteria from your tooth surfaces and beneath your gums. It may be performed using instruments or an ultrasonic device.
Root planing. Root planing smoothes the root surfaces, discouraging further buildup of calculus and bacterial endotoxin.
Antibiotics. Your periodontist or dentist may recommend using topical or oral antibiotics to help control bacterial infection. Topical antibiotics can include antibiotic mouth rinses or insertion of gels containing antibiotics in the space between your teeth and gums or into pockets after deep cleaning. However, oral antibiotics may be necessary to completely eliminate infection-causing bacteria.
If you have advanced periodontitis, your gum tissue may not respond to nonsurgical treatments and good oral hygiene. In that case, periodontitis treatment may require dental surgery, such as:
- Flap surgery (pocket reduction surgery).In this procedure, your periodontist makes tiny incisions in your gum so that a section of gum tissue can be lifted back, exposing the roots for more effective scaling and root planing. Because periodontitis often causes bone loss, the underlying bone may be recontoured before the gum tissue is sutured back in place. After you heal, it’s easier to clean these areas and maintain healthy gum tissue.
- Soft tissue grafts.When you lose gum tissue to periodontal disease, your gumline recedes. You may need to have some of the damaged soft tissue reinforced. This is usually done by removing a small amount of tissue from the roof of your mouth (palate) or another donor source and attaching it to the affected site. This procedure can help reduce further gum recession, cover exposed roots and give your teeth a more pleasing appearance.
- Bone grafting.This procedure is performed when periodontitis has destroyed the bone surrounding your tooth root. The graft may be composed of small fragments of your own bone, or the bone may be synthetic or donated. The bone graft helps prevent tooth loss by holding your tooth in place. It also serves as a platform for the regrowth of natural bone.
The best way to prevent gum inflammation is to follow a program of good oral hygiene, one that you begin early and practice consistently throughout life. That means brushing your teeth at least twice daily — in the morning and before going to bed — and flossing at least once a day. Better yet, brush after every meal or snack or as your dentist recommends.
A complete cleaning with a toothbrush and floss should take three to five minutes or so. Flossing before you brush allows you to clean away the loosened food particles and bacteria.
Use a mouth rinse to help reduce plaque between your teeth.
Supplement brushing and flossing with an interdental cleaner, such as a dental pick, interdental brush or dental stick specially designed to clean between your teeth.
Also, see your dentist or dental hygienist regularly for cleanings, usually every six to 12 months. If you have risk factors that increase your chance of developing periodontitis — such as having dry mouth, taking certain blood pressure medications or smoking — you may need professional cleaning more often.