Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gum tissue and bone with symptoms such as teeth movement and bleeding gums. Early detection is important and treatment by a dentist or periodontist can stop the disease from progressing.

How do you define periodontal disease? Is periodontitis and gum disease the same thing?

Dr. John Vitale: Periodontal disease can be defined as an inflammation of the gum tissue or bone tissue or both in a person’s mouth. Periodontitis and gum disease are somewhat similar. Periodontitis would be a progression of the gum disease. When a person has just inflammation of the gum tissue, that’s generally called gingivitis, but when it gets down into the bone and the bone becomes infected along with the gum tissue, then we have periodontitis.

What are some symptoms people experience that are clues that they might have periodontal disease?

Dr. John Vitale: Well, there are a couple of symptoms. One would be movement of teeth. If your teeth start to move or you feel mobility in your teeth, that’s a serious problem and one of the symptoms of chronic periodontal disease. Others are bleeding of your gum tissue. If you see blood when you expectorate or when you brush your teeth, that’s not a very good sign. Those are the two primary signs.

What can people do, or in some cases not do, to prevent getting periodontal diseases?

Dr. John Vitale: The most important thing that people can do is brush three times a day. Floss your mouth twice a day. Use mouthwash twice a day. Keep your mouth really, really clean. And if you eat between meals, find a way to brush your teeth to keep them clean. What you shouldn’t do is drink excessively or smoke excessively. Really do not smoke at all because it has been found to cause periodontal disease in people’s mouths.

Is there a link between periodontal disease and heart disease?

Dr. John Vitale: Yes, there is a very pronounced link between the two, periodontal disease and heart disease. With periodontal disease, one generally gets an accumulation of plaque, which is a soft material that eventually sticks to your teeth and becomes hard. That same material has been found to be present in the inside vessels in people’s bodies causing occlusion of vessels, heart attacks and coronary disease. While scientists have always suspected that there was a correlation, they probably proved about 20 years ago that there was.

Can you describe how periodontal disease is treated?

Dr. John Vitale: Depending on the severity, if it’s caught initially after it just starts to become periodontitis for instance, very deep scalings under a local anesthetic along with postoperative care brushing, flossing, rinsing can help. If it’s really severe and you end up with some serious bone defects in your mouth as a result of the periodontal disease, then I would recommend that a patient go to a periodontist and there’s a minor, minor surgery in the mouth that will help arrest the problem. Periodontal disease is really never eradicated completely. It’s arrested at the point that people allow it to get to and then with really good oral hygiene afterwards, you can maintain your mouth in a fine fashion. If you don’t, it will just continue to progress.

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