Periodontal Disease

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Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is more commonly known as gum disease or gingivitis. This infection is serious enough, that it can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. This chronic infection starts around the tooth and it affects the supporting bone and gums. Periodontal disease can affect anywhere from one tooth to all thirty-two teeth. The disease pathology starts with the plaque that builds up on your teeth everyday.

The plaque build up causes the gums to become red and inflamed. If not properly brushed off, the remaining plaque will also cause the gums to bleed. This stage of periodontal disease is commonly referred to gingivitis, literately meaning ¡°swelling of the gums.¡± There is no real pain associated with gingivitis. It is curable with a good dental cleaning and proper brushing and flossing at home. However, if left untreated gingivitis can lead to advanced periodontal disease.

After a person has had untreated gingivitis for some time, plaque starts to grow and spread. It travels down below the gum line and the bacteria produce toxins. These toxins irritate the gums and cause the body¡¯s natural defenses to kick in. When the inflammatory response has been triggered for a while it causes the tissues that support the teeth and bone to break down. The gums begin to pull away from the tooth and a pocket forms.

A pocket is a space between the gums and teeth. The deeper the pocket is (in millimeters), the further the gums are from the tooth, and the more advanced the Periodontal disease is. A normal pocket depth of a health tooth is between one and three millimeters deep. Gingivitis is 4 millimeters deep. A pocket depth of five to tooth loss is advanced periodontal disease. (I¡¯ve seen pockets as deep as 12 millimeters deep) When your dental professional is checking pocket depth, they are performing what is called a perio-chart. Perio-charting should be done annually as a preventative measure of gum disease.

Plaque is the main cause of gum disease, but there are many contributing factors. Smoking is one of them. Most people are aware of the dangers of smoking. Not many people are aware that tobacco use significantly increases a person¡¯s chance for periodontal disease. Once diagnosed with periodontal disease, a smoker¡¯s chance of healing is dramatically decreased. If a smoker does heal from periodontal disease...

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...ointment can cost around two hundred dollars. Crown lengthening and tissue grafts can easily cost three times as much. Not to mention the cost of prescriptions and lost time. Insurance companies will help on select procedures, but the amount covered varies per plan. The cost of a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and Listerine is considerably cheaper. To avoid treatment costs, one should do all they can to prevent the infection.

As a trained dental assistant of four years, I have seen my share of mouths. When I first started in this profession I was amazed at how many patient I saw who were educated and well off, and who still had poor hygiene. People now days may be getting better about see the importance of taking care of their teeth, but there are still many out there that need some encouragement. Brushing your teeth is not enough in many cases. Make friends with the floss as well. It may prevent you from contracting periodontal disease. If a person has heart disease and periodontal disease their risk for death increases greatly. This disease isn¡¯t something that you can forget about. It needs to be taken seriously or it may come back to haunt you and your wallet later.
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