Officially called periodontal disease, gum disease is usually found during your oral examination. Since early stages of the problem usually cause little or no pain, many patients ignore this inflammation of the gums. Nevertheless, it is a serious matter, potentially leading to loss of teeth! Additional studies indicate that unchecked gum disease may lead to a higher incidence of stroke, heart attack or premature birth. These studies show what dentists have long believed: oral health is connected to your overall health.
Periodontal disease is caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar created by oral bacteria. If left unchecked, either by a lack of daily dental care, regular visits to your dentist, or both, tartar works its way beneath the gums. This irritates the tissue, leading to reddened and bleeding gums. If your gums bleed during flossing or brushing, this is not normal. You have some form of gum disease, either gingivitis or periodontitis.
At this stage, the pockets formed around the teeth by the gums are starting to expand due to inflammation of the tissues. With a tiny dental probe, your dentist carefully determines the size of the sulcus, or space, between each tooth and the gum tissue. Ideally, Dr. Steele will find a depth of three millimeters or less. When the sulcus is greater than three millimeters, plaque has created space for irritation, infection, and further complications. Bone loss from the sockets has not yet begun.
When the disease has advanced to periodontitis, space between the teeth and gums is excessive, due to prolonged exposure to plaque and tartar. The gums bleed easily. Bone loss is present. Specialized treatment may be avoidable with prompt treatment of the problem.
Bone loss is moderate to severe at this stage. Gaps between the teeth and gums have allowed bacteria to work their way up to the socket and root. The root is loosened from the bone by the advancement of the disease. Left untreated, teeth will be lost. Laser treatments to reduce large periodontal pockets or oral gum surgery may be necessary.