Periodontics is a branch of dentistry that deals specifically with conditions affecting the gums and soft tissues that support your teeth. They treat periodontal disease (an advanced form of gum disease) and other inflammations of the mouth.
Gum disease begins as gingivitis, with common signs including blood on the toothbrush when you brush your teeth. You should contact your dentist immediately if you experience such symptoms, as gum disease is best treated early. Left untreated, gingivitis can become periodontitis, which is much more serious
Periodontitis affects the soft tissue that holds the teeth in place and can cause the gums to start separating from the teeth. The condition can also spread to the jaw bones, which can start to dissolve, leading to tooth loss. It usually takes some years for periodontitis to develop, and you should make an appointment with a Periodontist if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
Periodontitis is the inflammation of the tissues that hold the tooth in its socket. If left untreated it can result in the destruction of the tooth attachment as well as the destruction of the bone itself.
Healthy gums are pale pink and firm. If the gums are red and swollen, there is probably gum disease or gingivitis present. One of the commonest signs is blood on the toothbrush after brushing and often there is bad breath (halitosis) as well. Flossing may also cause bleeding.
The accumulation of a surface film of dental plaque (a sticky layer of germs) starts the inflammatory process. Tiny ulcers appear that penetrate the soft gum tissues and cause the immune system to respond. Large numbers of white blood cells appear on the scene to fight the bacterial invasion and the gums begin to swell. However, if it is left untreated, it gradually progresses, resulting in the destruction of the tooth attachment and bone around the teeth (periodontitis). This causes the affected teeth to become loose and in some cases move. The depth of the space between the neck of the tooth (where the tooth meets the gum) and the gum indicates if there is a gum problem or not. These spaces are known as 'pockets'. The measurements, taken by a dentist or hygienist also show how severe any existing gum problem is. Healthy gums have small pocket measurements (2-3mm), but in where there is disease these pockets can be very deep (5-10mm or more) and means that special treatment is needed.
Periodontitis and gingivitis can affect anyone at any age. The milder form, gingivitis, is more common. Gingivitis causes bleeding gums and, if left untreated, may progress to periodontitis.
Gingivitis can be treated by visiting a dentist or hygienist who will clean the teeth professionally and advise on how to improve tooth cleaning at home. The patient may be unaware that there is a problem, as gingivitis can be painless during the early stages of the disease. Basic periodontal treatment involves cleaning out the deposits of plaque and hardened plaque (tartar) from above and below the gums. The treatment is usually done by cleaning the affected areas, sometimes after making them numb with a local anaesthetic. In most cases the gum problems resolve after this type of treatment when accompanied by an effective oral hygiene routine at home. Gum problems are also made worse by smoking and any dental professional will encourage smokers to stop.
Sometimes basic treatment is not successful at getting the gum disease under control. This is because the pockets in severe periodontitis are so deep that it is not possible to fully clean the roots without actually looking at them. The dentist may then suggest gum (periodontal) surgery. This treatment involves pushing the gums away from the teeth so that the roots can be seen. It is only by doing this that the dentist can be sure that the roots are clean.
The dentist will usually refer such patients to a periodontist, who is a specialist in gum diseases and their treatment.
Prevention of this condition can be done by visiting a dentist or hygienist for advice on brushing and flossing techniques and by the use of special brushes, together with regular cleaning and dental appointments. Maintaining good oral hygiene will help to prevent gum conditions from worsening.
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