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Periodontal Disease: Causes and Cures

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Author: Dr. Susan Wells

When most people think of dental problems they think in terms of cavities, tooth decay and even losing their teeth. However, another important problem can occur as the result of poor dental hygiene and care. This problem is periodontal disease.

The word periodontal literally means "around the tooth". Periodontics is the area of dentistry that diagnoses and treats diseases of the gums and bone that surround your teeth. This is a vital specialty and is one of the eight recognized specialties of the American Dental Association. Obviously, if the gum and bone around your teeth get destroyed this can easily result in tooth loss. The care of the supporting structures of the teeth is in the domain of the periodontist. Periodontists are also expert in the placement and maintenance of dental implants. Dental implants are tiny posts that are placed into the bone to create a foundation for artificial teeth.

The main cause of periodontal disease is plaque, that sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. Periodontal disease is actually an infection in the gums. Eliminating this film from teeth and gums is a main reason brushing and flossing regularly is so important.

The two most common types are gingivitis and periodontitus. Gingivitis occurs when only the tissue of the gums is infected and breaks down due to the periodontal disease. Periodontitus is a more serious form of periodontal disease where both the bone and the tissue that connects the gum and bone are effected and broken down by the gum disease.

Causes of Periodontal Disease?

The main cause of gum disease is plaque or tartar. Plaque is a type of dental bacteria that can be found all over the teeth's enamel and along the gum line. Most people brush their teeth carefully and maintain a good dental hygiene routine such as flossing and using mouthwash, in order to remove the most plaque from their teeth as possible. However, there are always some difficult areas of the mouth which we simply cannot reach. In this case or in the case of bad oral hygiene, the remaining plaque can seep into the gums and release a harmful toxin which will affect the gums and tissue. Hardened plaque or tartar will do the same as it can really only be removed by your dentist. Once the tartar has been created below the gumline, it may cause severe irritation, inflammation and infection.

Some Other Factors

Periodontal disease can worsen due to some extenuating factors. If you are prone to plaque and tartar build up and suffer from one of the following conditions, your chances of having periodontal disease will increase: a weakened immune system, a lack of oxygen in the mouth, diabetes, stress, or pregnancy. Some drugs also increase your risk of periodontal problems. These include birth control pills, steroids and certain other medicines (for cancer, seizures and blood pressure). If you suffer from one of these conditions or are taking certain medicines, you should notify your dentist so that he or she can look and watch out specifically for gum disease during your appointments.

Treatment for Periodontal Disease

It's important to treat periodontal disease in a timely manner and it must be treated as it can lead to more severe dental problems. If you suffer from periodontal disease, have a family history of periodontal disease or just want to take preventive measures from having gum disease a good oral hygiene will help you greatly. You should brush your teeth with proper technique two to three times daily, floss regularly, change your toothbrush every 2-3 months, use fluoride toothpaste, use mouthwash after brushing and eating healthily. If you need medical treatment for your gum disease you can expect that your doctor prescribes antibiotics and a special mouthwash for eliminating the inflammation, pain and bacteria. Your doctor will also perform a scaling and root planning procedure which the dentist will remove any plaque and tartar and smooth over the teeth roots in order for the gum tissue to reattach itself to the teeth without further problems.

Dr. Susan Wells DMD has been practicing dentistry in Warrior, Alabama since 1978. She treats patients for all aspects of general dentistry including preventive dental care oral hygiene instruction and full scale exams and cleanings. To find out more or book an appointment visit her site at


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