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Symptoms and Signs of Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease (also known as gum disease and periodontitis) is a serious condition and the prime cause of missing teeth amongst adults in the civilized world. Periodontal disease occurs when the bacteria found in plaque begin to inflame and irritate the gingiva (gum tissue). The resulting bacterial inflammation also known as gingivitis, can rapidly lead to the break down of the underlying bone and gum tissue. If periodontal disease is left untreated, it can also progress to tooth loss and loose teeth.

There are many multiple types of periodontal disease including chronic, aggressive, necrotizing periodontitis, and periodontitis combined with systemic diseases. All of these types of periodontal disease has its own defined symptoms and characteristics, and may require rapid involvement by a dentist to stop the continued tissue and bone loss.

What are the Common Symptoms and Signs?

It is very important to remember that periodontal disease can continue without any symptoms and signs. This is why consistent dental visits are very important. Below are some of the descriptions of the most common symptoms and signs of periodontitis.

If you find that you have any these signs or symptoms, the advice of Dr. Braithwaite or periodontist would be to seek treatment ASAP:

  • Bleeding that is unexpected – Bleeding when eating food, brushing, or flossing is one of the most common signs of a periodontal infection. The bacteria in plaque lead to a bacterial inflammation which leads to the tissues prone to bleeding.
  • Redness, pain or swelling – A periodontal inflammation may be present if the gums are red, swollen or painful for no logical reason. It is important to stop the continuation of the infection before the jaw bone and gum tissue have been compromised. It is also essential to treat the infection before it is transmitted to other areas of the body or into the bloodstream.
  • Teeth that appear longer – Periodontal disease can lead gums to recede. The bacteria given off by the microorganisms can destroy the surrounding bones and tissues, thus making the teeth appear longer and the smile looking more "toothy."
  • Halitosis/Bad breath –Since bad breath can begin from the back of the tongue, the stomach and lungs, from the food we eat, or from the use of tobacco. Bad breath may be a result of old food debris which sit underneath the gumline and between the teeth. The deeper gum pockets are able to collect more bacteria and debris, causing a disagreeable odor.
  • Loose teeth/change in alignment of teeth – A prime indicator of rapidly progressing periodontitis is the shifting and loosening of the teeth in the affected location. As the boney areas become broken down, teeth that were once secured to the jaw bone may shift in position or become mobile.
  • Pus – Pus oozing from between the teeth is a prime indicator that a periodontal infection is progressing. The pus is a sign from the body trying to overcome the bacterial infection.

What is the Treatment of Periodontal Disease?

It is of significant importance to stop the progression of periodontal disease before it results in further destruction to the jawbone and gum tissues. The dentist may initially assess the entire mouth in order to decide on the progress of the disease. When a diagnosis has been decided, the dentist can treat the bacterial inflammation with antibiotics along with with surgical or nonsurgical treatment or both.

In the situation of moderate periodontal disease, the pockets (under the gumline) of the teeth will be thoroughly cleared of bacteria and food using a procedure called scaling and root planing. The pockets will then be filled with antibiotics to continue good healing and stop any toxins that remain.

Severe periodontitis can be treated in 2-3 different ways, such as:

  • Laser treatment – This can be utilized to minimize the size of the pockets between the gums and teeth.
  • Tissue & bone grafting – Where an excessive amount of bone or gum tissue has been lost, the dentist may choose to graft additional tissue by placing a membrane to stimulate new growth.
  • Pocket elimination surgery – The dentist may choose to procede with "flap surgery" to completely reduce the size of the gum pockets.

If you have any continued questions about the symptoms and signs of periodontal disease, please ask Dr. Braithwaite or a member of his team.