Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. Periodontitis can cause tooth loss or worse, an increased risk of heart attack or stroke and other serious health problems.
Periodontitis is common but largely preventable. Periodontitis is usually the result of poor oral hygiene. Brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily and getting regular dental checkups can greatly reduce your chance of developing periodontitis.
In most cases, periodontitis is preventable. It is usually caused by poor dental hygiene.
Signs and Symptoms of Periodontitis
- Swollen gums
- Bright red or purplish gums
- Gums that feel tender when touched
- Gums that pull away from your teeth (recede), making your teeth look longer than normal
- New spaces developing between your teeth
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Bad breath
- Bad taste in your mouth
- Loose teeth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
Factors that can increase your risk of periodontitis include:
- Poor oral health habits
- Tobacco use
- Older age
- Decreased immunity, such as that occurring with leukemia, HIV/AIDS or chemotherapy
- Poor nutrition
- Certain medications
- Hormonal changes, such as those related to pregnancy or menopause
- Substance abuse
- Poor-fitting dental restorations
- Problems with the way your teeth fit together when biting
If periodontitis isn't advanced, treatment may involve less invasive procedures, including:
- Scaling. Scaling removes tartar and bacteria from your tooth surfaces and beneath your gums.
- Root Planing. Root planing smoothes the root surfaces, discouraging further buildup of tartar and bacterial endotoxin.
- Antibiotics. Your periodontist or dentist may recommend using topical or oral antibiotics to help control bacterial infection.
If you have advanced periodontitis, your gum tissue may not respond to non-surgical treatments and good oral hygiene. In that case, periodontitis treatment may require dental surgery, such as:
- Flap surgery (pocket reduction surgery): The healthcare professional performs flap surgery to remove calculus in deep pockets, or to reduce the pocket so that keeping it clean is easier. The gums are lifted back and the tartar is removed. The gums are then sutured back into place so they fit closely to the tooth. After surgery, the gums will heal and high tightly around the tooth. In some cases the teeth may eventually seem longer than they used to.
- Bone and tissue grafts: This procedure helps regenerate bone or gum tissue that has been destroyed. With bone grafting, new natural or synthetic bone is placed where bone was lost, promoting bone growth.
In a procedure called 'guided tissue regeneration', a small piece of mesh-like material is inserted between the gum tissue and bone. This stops the gum from growing into bone space, giving the bone and connective tissue a chance to regrow.
The dentist may also use special proteins (growth factors) that help the body regrow bone naturally.