What is Periodontal Disease and What Are The Treatment Options?

Periodontal Disease
Woman with gum inflammation, closeup

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, occurs when harmful bacteria in your mouth cause damage to the soft tissues and bones that support your teeth. There are many different treatments for gum disease depending on the severity of your condition. While gum disease is preventable, it often goes overlooked until the infection becomes severe enough to trigger tooth loss.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is a localized infection that encompasses both gum and bone loss around specific teeth.  The infected tissues create pockets in the gums, allowing additional bacteria to accumulate underneath them and trigger an inflammatory response from your immune system.

During cases of severe periodontal infections, the bacteria can enter your bloodstream and spread throughout your cardiovascular system. In fact, bacteria have been found lodged inside of arterial linings and the brain. Scientists warn that active gum disease can statistically increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Ultimately, periodontal disease is the #1 cause of adult tooth loss in San Diego and across the United States.

What Causes Gum Disease?

Gum disease is caused by plaque, which builds up on teeth and irritates the gums. Usually, plaque is removed with daily brushing and flossing. But if home care is lacking or areas are missed, chronic inflammation of your gum tissue can result. From there, your immune system will react to the bacteria in your mouth and increase blood flow as it rushes antibodies to those spaces. This reaction triggers redness and bleeding, due to a bacterial presence. As gums become more infected, they pull away from the teeth and reduce the amount of tissue support. Bone loss also follows.

What Are Some of the Early Warning Signs of Periodontal Disease? 

Some of the early warning signs of gum disease are soreness in your gums and bleeding while brushing or flossing. Early-stage infections like gingivitis will usually improve with good oral hygiene, but periodontal infections do not. In fact, gingivitis can usually be reversed in about two weeks with good home care. But if it evolves into periodontal disease, symptoms will ultimately include:

  • Bone loss
  • Gum recession
  • Exposed root surfaces
  • Tooth mobility and loss
  • Chronic halitosis
  • Heavy tartar buildup

Treatment Options for Periodontal Infections

Periodontal disease usually requires a series of therapeutic deep cleanings (scaling and root planing) to target the bacteria responsible for your gum infection. Preventative cleanings do not reach these deep pocket areas and are inadequate for managing active gum disease.

If your infection is severe, our San Diego dentist may recommend more advanced periodontal therapies, such as crown lengthening, pocket reduction, gum augmentation, or bone grafting.

Until periodontal disease is treated professionally, it will only continue to expand deeper into your supporting oral tissues or spread to adjacent teeth. It cannot be treated at home, regardless of how well you brush or floss.

Is Periodontal Disease Reversible?

Gingivitis is reversible but gum disease is not. Periodontal disease is a progressive condition, meaning that the more time that goes by, the worse it will get. Left untreated, gum disease will progress to permanent bone loss and tooth loss, impacting your entire smile. If you are experiencing symptoms like bleeding gums or loose teeth, don’t put off seeing our San Diego dentist for a professional evaluation.

The goal of periodontal treatment is to prevent additional tissue detachment and preserve the current level of integrity around your teeth. It does not reverse soft or hard tissue loss. Rather, it serves to maintain the level of oral health and structural support where it’s at before it gets any worse.

What Happens if Periodontal Disease Goes Untreated?

Untreated gum disease poses a risk to both your smile and your overall health. As gum disease progresses, it can lead to tooth loss, chronic bad breath, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Even people with diabetes or infertility issues may find that their conditions do not improve until their oral infection is stabilized.

If you suspect that you have gum disease, call Downtown Dental Specialty in San Diego today for an appointment.