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Periodontal diseases are infections of the gums which gradually destroy the support of your natural teeth. There are numerous disease entities requiring different treatment approaches. Dental plaque is the primary cause of gum disease in genetically susceptible individuals. Daily brushing, flossing, and other care will prevent most periodontal conditions.

FAQs About Periodontal Disease

Questions about Periodontal Disease Presentation

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How Did I Get Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal diseases can be accelerated by a number of different factors. However, it is mainly caused by the bacteria found in dental plaque, a sticky colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. If not carefully removed by daily brushing and flossing, plaque hardens into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar).

Bacteria found in plaque produces toxins or poisons that irritate the gums, which may cause them to turn red, swell and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth, causing pockets (spaces) to form. As periodontal diseases progress, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorate. If left untreated, this leads to tooth loss.

Preventing Gum Disease

The best way to prevent gum disease is effective daily brushing and flossing as well as regular professional examinations and cleanings. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home dental care, people still can develop some form of periodontal disease. Once this disease starts, professional intervention is necessary to prevent its progress.

As you hew, you upper and lower teeth come together, pushing against the skull. If you have an uneven bite, missing teeth, or improperly aligned teeth, your muscles work harder to bring the teeth together. If you clench or grind your teeth, the strain only increases.

Teeth are negatively affected by three diseases: decay (cavities), periodontal (gum) disease, and occlusal (bite) disease. Most of us are acquainted with the signs, symptoms, and treatment of the first two, probably from personal experience.

Occlusal disease does not always present itself so obviously. Wear, sensitivity, cracks, loose teeth, breaking teeth, sore muscles, painful jaw joints, headaches - these and more can be the effects of occlusal disease. In its early stages, an obvious injury, like a broken tooth, often hides the underlying cause.

You may have a poor bite if you experience any of the following:

  • You clench your jaw muscles for long periods of time.
  • When you wake up in the morning, your jaw muscles feel tired and sore to the touch.
  • You grind your teeth while you are sleeping.
  • Your jaw clicks and pops upon opening.
  • Your head or jaw muscles feel painful when you touch it.
  • Your ears ache or you hear ringing.
  • You have neck, shoulder or back pain.
  • You feel dizzy.

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact our office and Dr. Herrin can evaluate your bite to determine if it is a probable contributing factor. If so, Dr. Herrin will recommend an effective plan of treatment.

Heart and Periodontal Disease

It's possible that if you have periodontal disease, you may be at risk for cardiovascular disease...

For a long time we've known that bacteria may affect the heart.

Now evidence is mounting that suggests people with periodontal disease - a bacterial infection, may be more at risk for heart disease, and have nearly twice the risk of having a fatal heart attack, than patients without periodontal disease.

While more research is needed to confirm how periodontal bacteria may affect your heart, one possibility is that the chronic inflammation caused by periodontal disease contributes to the buildup of fatty deposits inside the heart arteries.

One out of every 5 Americans has one or more types of heart disease. If you are one of these Americans, or if you are at risk for periodontal disease, see a periodontist for a periodontal evaluation - because healthy gums may lead to a healthier body.

Diabetes and Periodontal Disease

The two-way relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes...

For years we've known that people with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes.

Recently, research has emerged suggesting that the relationship goes both ways - periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar.

More research is needed to confirm how periodontal disease can make it more difficult to control blood sugar. What we do know is that severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar, contributing to increased periods of time when your body functions with a high blood sugar. And, if you are a diabetic, you know that this puts you at increased risk for diabetic complications. In other words, controlling your periodontal disease may help you control your diabetes.

If you are among the nearly 16 million Americans in the U.S. who live with diabetes, or are at risk for periodontal disease, see a periodontist for an evaluation - because healthy gums may lead to a healthier body.

Pregnancy and Periodontal Disease

It's possible that if you have periodontal disease and are pregnant, you may be at risk for having a premature, low birthweight baby...

For a long time we've known that many risk factors contribute to mothers having babies that are born prematurely at a low birthweight - smoking, alcohol use, drug use and infections.

Now evidence is mounting that suggest a new risk factor - periodontal disease. Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that is born too early or too small.

More research is needed to confirm how periodontal disease may affect pregnancy outcomes. What we do know is that periodontal disease is an infection and all infections are cause for concern among pregnant women because they pose a risk to the health of the baby.

If you are planning to become pregnant or are at risk for periodontal disease be sure to include a periodontal evaluation with a periodontist as part of your prenatal care - because healthy gums may lead to a healthier body and a healthy baby.

Respiratory Illness and Periodontal Disease

It's possible that if you have periodontal disease, you may be at risk for respiratory disease...

For a long time we've known that people who smoke, are elderly, or have other health problems that suppress the immune system, are at increased risk for the development of respiratory diseases like pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

More research is needed to confirm how periodontal disease may put people at increased risk for respiratory disease. What we do know is that infections in the mouth, like periodontal disease, are associated with increased risk of respiratory infection.

If you are at risk for respiratory disease or periodontal disease see a periodontist for a periodontal evaluation - because healthy gums may lead to a healthier body.

Other Factors Affecting the Health of Your Gums

There can be a lot of factors affecting the health of your gums including...

  • Diabetes
  • Medication
  • Poor nutrition
  • Pregnancy and puberty
  • Poor bite or alignment of teeth
  • Genetic susceptibility
  • Smoking
  • Tooth grinding
  • Jaw clenching

The inside of the mouth is normally lined with a special type of skin (mucosa) that is smooth and coral pink in color. Any alteration in this appearance could be a warning sign for a pathological process. The most serious of these is oral cancer. The following can be signs of the beginning of a pathologic process or cancerous growth:

  • Reddish patches (erythroplasia) or whitish patches (leukoplakia) in the mouth
  • A sore that fails to heal and bleeds easily
  • A lump or thickening on the skin lining the inside of the mouth
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
  • Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
  • Soreness of the muscles that open or close the mouth
  • Noises or loss of function of the jaw joints
  • Toothaches or gum soreness that persists for more than a week

These changes can be detected on the lips, cheeks, palate, gum tissue around the teeth, tongue, face, and/or neck. Pain is not always necessary to define pathology and, curiously, is not often associated with oral cancer. However, any patient with facial and/or oral pain without an obvious cause or reason may also be at risk for oral cancer.

We would recommend performing an oral cancer self-examination monthly ESPECIALLY IF YOU SMOKE. Remember that your mouth is one of your body's most important warning systems. Do not ignore suspicious lumps or sores, please contact us so we may help you.

If you feel that you or someone you know, have any of the symptoms that have been discussed or if you have any questions and/or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact our office so we may be of some assistance to you.

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American Academy of Periodontology
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