Common questions about periodontitis
The main concerns about gum disease typically involve how to prevent and treat it. Patients want to know if they are at a higher risk of developing the disease and what they can do to stop it in its tracks.
What causes it?
There are a number of risk factors for periodontal disease, but the disease process itself is caused by plaque and calculus buildup that leads to chronic inflammation around the gums. This eventually causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, and harmful bacteria travel deeper into the spaces around the gums. The toxins released from bacteria start to eat away at the jawbone and can cause the teeth to come loose in the sockets; this eventually causes tooth loss.
Who is at risk for it?
Smokers, the elderly and the immunocompromised are at a higher risk of developing this condition. Smoking affects blood supply to the teeth and gums, and tobacco products chronically irritate the oral tissues. The elderly often have more difficulty with effective plaque removal due to limited mobility and dexterity. Immunocompromised individuals are not able to fight off infections as well as a healthy person, so bacteria and plaque can wreak havoc more quickly.
How is it treated?
There are multiple treatment options for periodontal disease. For milder cases, a deep-cleaning is often recommended. Laser therapy may be utilized for moderate to severe cases. In the most serious cases of periodontal disease, tooth extraction may be necessary; there are many replacement options that can be considered for these patients.
Is it reversible?
Periodontitis is not a reversible condition in that the destruction that bacteria, plaque and calculus cause cannot be undone. However, the disease can be halted, and the goal is to detect the disease in the early stages so that the most conservative treatment options can be given. Patients who are willing to undergo periodontal treatment and maintain healthy hygiene habits are often able to keep their teeth for a long time.
While the diagnosis of gum disease can be disheartening, there are many things that can be done to help treat and manage this condition. For patients dealing with this situation, a consultation with a dentist is recommended to find out what treatment options are available for each unique situation.
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