You were just diagnosed with periodontal disease. OMG! How could this happen?? You swear you are doing a good job at home. Well, don't panic and let’s discuss it.
First, maybe we should brief on what periodontal disease actually is. Periodontal (gum) disease is an inflammatory disease that affects the soft and hard structures that support the teeth. Gingivitis is the early stage: the gums become swollen and red due to inflammation. Gingivitis is reversible, a lot of times by improving homecare and/or more frequent cleanings. Periodontal disease is when the infection has spread to the bone that supports the tooth structure. It is the number one reason why people lose their teeth. There are many risk factors associated with periodontal disease. For example, use of tobacco products, inadequate homecare and/or professional cleanings, and possible genetic links all increase the risk of the disease. I cannot stress prevention enough. Prevent, prevent, PREVENT. It is so much easier to prevent than to treat disease.
If you are a wondering how we determine if you have periodontal disease let me jump right into that. At each cleaning appointment I use a gum ruler, which is an instrument that measures in millimeters. I measure around each tooth, measuring six different spots. I'm also monitoring for any areas that bleed. Bleeding is a sign of infection. All of this data is stored in your chart. I check the health of your gums each time I see you, whether it's been 1-month or years since you have been in. X-rays are another important, diagnostic tool. We can actually see the bone levels on the bitewing x-rays. These tools combined are vital to diagnosing and treating gum disease. We are also concerned with gum disease as the bacteria also leaks into your bloodstream. This puts you at a higher risk for diabetes, heart attack, stroke, low birth weight/stillborn babies, certain cancers, Alzheimer’s disease; just to name a few! Periodontal disease affects the entire body.
So, you were just diagnosed with gum disease. Breathe, don't freak out! We can treat it, not "cure" it; we’ll treat and maintain the disease. Periodontal disease is actually very common, 47% of the population is affected whether they know it or not. In adults 65-years and older the prevalence rate actually increases to 70%. This is a communicable disease (can pass to others by actions such as kissing). Many people do not even know they have a problem because frequently it does not hurt until it's too late.
Check out our next blog for periodontal disease treatment.