What Causes Periodontal Disease?
Plaque is a mostly invisible film of bacteria that clings to teeth and gums. The bacteria in plaque cause irritation of the tissues that support your teeth. This irritation can lead to chronic inflammation and infection that can destroy your gum and bone tissue.
Plaque that is not completely removed may harden into a rough, porous deposit called tartar. Tartar by itself does not seem to cause disease, but it typically makes it more difficult to remove plaque that can thrive on, in or near the tartar. The only way to limit the disease-causing effects of tartar is to have your teeth cleaned regularly by your dentist.
Diagnosing Periodontal Diseases
If you schedule regular dental checkups, your dentist can detect developing periodontal diseases before the gums and the bone supporting your teeth are irreversibly damaged. Periodontal diseases are progressive left untreated, the condition often becomes worse.
During a checkup, the dentist examines your gums for periodontal problems. An instrument called a periodontal probe is used to gently measure the depth of the spaces between your teeth and gums.
At the very edge of the gumline, healthy gum tissue forms a very shallow, v-shaped groove (also known as a sulcus) between the tooth and gums. The normal depth of the sulcus should be three millimeters or less. With periodontal diseases, this normally shallow sulcus develops into a deeper pocket that collects more plaque bacteria and is difficult to keep clean.
If gum disease is diagnosed, your dentist may provide treatment, or you may be referred to a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of periodontal diseases. How periodontitis is treated often depends on how far the condition has progressed and how well your body responds to therapy over time.
Gingivitis is the initial stage of periodontal disease. Affected gum areas become increasingly red or dark. They may appear swollen and bleed easily. If it is not treated, gingivitis may lead to a more serious condition called periodontitis.
Periodontitis irreversibly damages the gums, bones and other structures that support the teeth. At this stage, the disease may require more complex treatment to prevent tooth loss. In the worst case, teeth can become loose and fall out or they may have to be extracted.
Periodontal diseases are progressive left untreated the condition often worsens. If you schedule regular dental checkups, your dentist can detect developing periodontal problems before the gums and the bone supporting your teeth are irreversibly damaged.