Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a Periodontist and why do I have to see one?
A: The word Periodontist comes from the Greek words that mean “around the tooth”. One goes to a Periodontist mainly when there are problems with the gums around the teeth or a problem with the bone that support the teeth.
Q: What are the main types of periodontal diseases?
A: The two main types of periodontal diseases are gingivitis and periodontitis. These infections affect the gum and the bone that hold the teeth in place. Gingivitis is the first level of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that progresses over time and can become more advanced with age. Periodontal disease has been linked with other serious diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and low birth weight babies. Periodontal diseases are caused by many factors such as genetics, smoking, systemic diseases, medications, tobacco use, poor oral hygiene and trauma. Periodontal disease can also result from ill fitting bridges, dentures and crowns. Crowded teeth and poor tooth alignment also may lead to periodontal problems.
Q: Is Periodontal Disease contagious?
A: Because bacteria cause periodontal disease, some scientists believe that periodontal disease can be passed from one family member to another as with any infection. However, most periodontal disease is caused from the ever present bacteria in ones own mouth and the failure of the immune system to fight the damaging bacteria. The American Academy of Periodontics recommends that if one family member has periodontal disease, that all family members see a dental professional for a periodontal screening.
Q: Who normally gets Periodontal Disease?
A: 70% of the world’s adult population has had some form of periodontal problems. Up to 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible to developing severe periodontal disease, according to the American Academy of Periodontics. People usually do not show signs of advanced gum disease until they are in their 30’s or 40’s. It is not uncommon for teenagers to have gingivitis. This is especially true while they are going through orthodontic treatment. Teenagers can also develop a very severe form of gum disease called juvenile periodontitis. Scientists think this rare but aggressive type of gum disease might be inherited. Pregnant women and people with diabetes are also very prone to periodontal disease.
Q: How is Periodontal Disease diagnosed?
A: There are three basic ways to detect and diagnosis gum disease: (1) By looking at the gum tissues to see if they are red, swollen, and inflamed. By checking for tartar —hardened plaque— beneath the gum line. (2) By probing with an instrument called a probe. This instrument measures recession and measures pocket depth around teeth. Pockets are spaces that form when unhealthy gums pull away from teeth. Usually, there is a space of 1-3mm between healthy gums and teeth. Deeper pockets may be a sign of advanced disease. Bacteria grow in these deeper pockets and create infection. This probing takes just a few minutes and is rarely uncomfortable. (3) Taking full mouth x-rays to check for any loss of bone is the third method of diagnosing periodontal disease. These x-rays reveal what is happening underneath the gum tissue and a thorough and accurate diagnosis cannot usually be made without some form of x-ray.
Q: How are Gum Diseases treated?
A: Gum disease is mostly controlled and prevented by controlling infection. To control infection the dentist or hygienist removes plaque that contains harmful bacteria. This is done by scaling and root planing. These are deep cleaning procedures that remove tartar from above and beneath the gum surface. Planing the tooth removes rough edges where bacterial plaque gathers and allows the gum tissue to heal closer to the tooth thus eliminating pockets.Sometimes the dentist will prescribe an antibacterial mouth rinse or an antibiotic that will help kill the germs that are causing periodontitis. After these procedures are completed it is very important that you brush and floss your teeth regularly to prevent plaque from building up again. Scaling and root planing may have to be repeated every three to four months. There are times when this conservative treatment is not enough and surgery is required.
Q: When is Gum Surgery necessary?
A: Surgery may be necessary when scaling and planing do not bring the gum disease under control. This may occur despite diligent home-care if other factors such as systemic diseases, medications, and other restorative dental problems are present.
Q: Can Baking Soda help Periodontitis?
A: Although Baking Soda and most Toothpastes can remove plaque; There is no scientific evidence that they can be used to reverse tissue and bone loss caused by Periodontitis.
Q: Can lasers be used to treat periodontal disease?
A: Yes, Lasers are used in some Periodontal Procedures. Through a concentrated beam of light, lasers are used to remove, and reshape tissue.
Q: Is there anything new on the horizon in the way of diagnosis and treatment of Periodontal Disease?
A: Yes, Scientist are rapidly discovering new Instruments and Procedures. “Computer Linked Probes”, “Temperature Probes” and “Video Low Dose Type X-Rays” are being developed. Isolation of the most aggressive types of bacteria that cause periodontal disease is of great interest to dental scientist. Barrier membranes and slow release antibiotics are now being used in treatment. Finally, the mouth – body connection is the focus of many scientific studies linking diseases of the body and periodontal disease. Most importantly in the fight against periodontal disease is early detection.