Periodontal Disease

What is Periodontal Disease?


Check out this video about Periodontal disease.

There are two basic diseases that are treated in dentistry:

  1. Dental Caries or Tooth Decay – decay of the teeth.
  2. Periodontal Disease or “Pyorrhea” – infection that affects the gums and bone around the teeth.

Both of these diseases are basically INFECTIONS caused by a build-up of germs or bacteria on your teeth. We call this mass of organized bacteria on teeth PLAQUE. The bacteria that form PLAQUE are normal, unorganized bacteria that are found in everyone’s mouth. In the free-floating state, they are beneficial and do not cause any damage. These bacteria become “stuck” to the teeth in protected areas (around the gum margins, between the teeth or in deep “pockets” between the teeth and gums). They form the thick, organized mass of bacteria that we call PLAQUE. The PLAQUE becomes very concentrated and produces chemicals that cause the damage we call dental disease:

  1. Acids that dissolve the teeth (tooth decay).
  2. Toxins that cause gum and bone infection (periodontitis).

It takes about 24 hours for enough bacteria to accumulate on a clean tooth to begin to produce dental disease; therefore, the treatment for both tooth decay and gun infection is SIMPLY TO BREAK UP THE ORGANIZED BACTERIA ON THE TEETH AT LEAST ONCE EVERY 24 HOURS! This will stop tooth decay and periodontitis and will prevent their recurrence. Obviously, any damage that has occurred previously must be corrected by the dentist, however, prevention of recurrence of the damage depends on the patient.

Gum infection is usually painless. Many people who have the disease are unaware that it is present until it reaches a very advanced stage. Bleeding and tender gums always indicate trouble; but, in some cases, the gums may not bleed even in the presence of advanced disease.

The disease usually starts when you are young. Children as young as 5 or 6 can have infected gums. Many individuals have infection to some degree by the time they are in their teens. Usually, no irreversible damage occurs from the infection until an individual reaches the early to mid 20’s or even later. When the transition from reversible to irreversible damage occurs, the gums begin to separate from the tooth an inflamed groove, which we call a “pocket”, develops between the tooth and gum. The pocket is a deep, unreachable area from which you cannot remove all the bacteria. Thus, a pocket becomes a “self-perpetuating” area of infection and disease.

The next stage of the disease starts when the infection spreads into the bone that surrounds and supports the teeth. When the infection reaches the level of the bone, the bone begins to dissolve. Over a period of time, all the bony support of the teeth may be lost. The teeth become loose and are either taken out or fall out. Therefore, t is most important that the infection be brought under control before too much bone is lost. Again, the infection is prevented simply by removing the Bacterial PLAQUE from the teeth at least ONCE EVERY 24 HOURS.

REMOVAL OF THE BACTERIA ONCE EVERY 24 hours is something which patients must be able to do for themselves. The office obviously cannot provide this daily care. The Doctor and staff can provide treatment, which will eliminate hard-to-clean areas and will create a periodontal anatomy from which you can remove the organizing bacteria on a DAILY basis.

As a general rule, any pocket (space between tooth and gum) deeper than 3 mm can be considered inaccessible for effective plaque removal. Other areas that are difficult to clean are tartar or calculus deposits on the teeth, rough fillings, and furcation areas (areas of bone loss between the root of molar teeth). These and other conditions contribute to poor plaque control and continuation of dental disease. Our treatment will be designed to correct these problems and give you better access for daily plaque removal. However, unless you THOROUGHLY REMOVE THE ORGANIZED BACTERIA FROM THE TEETH AT LEAST ONCE EVERY 24 HOURS, almost any treatment provided by a Periodontist or General Dentist will be of little benefit in stopping long-term dental disease.

-adapted from Dr. Conrad Hornbuckle