What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease—often called “gum disease”—is common but can be harmful if left untreated. Plaque buildup on the teeth can result in long-term inflammation that can range from mild (gingivitis) to severe (periodontitis). Regular teeth cleanings, treatment, and check-ups can help reduce the risk of periodontal disease.
The benefits of periodontal disease treatment may include:
Reduce your risk
of heart disease
While a cause-and-effect relationship hasn’t been proven, studies indicate that periodontal disease may increase heart disease risk.
Reduce your risk
Some studies show that oral infections may be a risk factor for stroke.
Reduce your risk
Diabetic patients are more likely to develop periodontal disease which can increase blood sugar.
How does periodontal disease treatment work?
Typical periodontal disease treatment includes a process called scaling and root planing, which removes the bacterial substance called plaque from the teeth alongside calculus, an accumulation of infectious calcified plaque on the tooth. This often takes place over 2-4 sessions and includes:
In a follow-up appointment, Dr. Sands continues ongoing periodontal maintenance and re-evaluation, including a full mouth probe and measurement of gums, a full mouth scale, a tissue check, and a review of home care practices.
Dr. Sands will often recommend ongoing periodontal therapy at regular intervals, usually every 3 months, as determined by her clinical evaluation. This therapy will usually include removal of plaque and calculus, annual periodontal probing, and coronal polishing.
Can periodontal disease be treated at home?
Is periodontal disease linked to other diseases?
Several studies have shown that periodontal disease is associated with heart disease. While a cause-and-effect relationship has not yet been proven, research has indicated that periodontal disease increases the risk of heart disease.
Periodontal disease can also exacerbate existing heart conditions. Patients at risk for infective endocarditis may require antibiotics prior to dental procedures. Your periodontist and cardiologist will be able to determine if your heart condition requires use of antibiotics prior to dental procedures.
Additional studies have pointed to a relationship between periodontal disease and stroke. In one study that looked at the causal relationship of oral infection as a risk factor for stroke, people diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were found more likely to have an oral infection when compared to those in the control group.
Diabetic patients are more likely to develop periodontal disease, which in turn can increase blood sugar and diabetic complications.
Research has found that bacteria that grow in the oral cavity can be aspirated into the lungs to cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia, especially in people with periodontal disease.
Researchers found that men with gum disease were 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30% more likely to develop blood cancers.
Are women at special risk for periodontal disease?
A woman’s periodontal health may be impacted by a variety of factors.
During puberty, an increased level of sex hormones, such as progesterone and possibly estrogen, causes increased blood circulation to the gums. This may cause an increase in the gum’s sensitivity and lead to a greater reaction to any irritation, including food particles and plaque. During this time, the gums may become swollen, turn red and feel tender.
Occasionally, some women experience menstruation gingivitis. Women with this condition may experience bleeding gums, bright red and swollen gums and sores on the inside of the cheek. Menstruation gingivitis typically occurs right before a woman’s period and clears up once her period has started.
Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small. However, more research is needed to confirm how periodontal disease may affect pregnancy outcomes. We recommend that women considering pregnancy have a periodontal evaluation.