What are periodontal diseases?

The word periodontal literally means "around the tooth." Periodontal diseases are serious bacterial infections that destroy the attachment fibers and supporting bone that hold your teeth in your mouth. Left untreated, these diseases can lead to tooth loss. There are many forms of periodontal disease: gingivitis, aggressive periodontitis, chronic periodontitis, periodontitis as a manifestation of systemic diseases and necrotizing periodontal diseases.

Who is a periodontist?

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease, and in the placement of dental implants. Periodontists receive extensive training in these areas, including three additional years of education beyond dental school. Periodontists are familiar with the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease. In addition, they can perform cosmetic periodontal procedures to help you achieve the smile you desire. Often, dentists refer their patients to a periodontist when their periodontal disease is advanced. However, you don't need a referral to see a periodontist. In fact, there are occasions when you may choose to go directly to a periodontist or to refer a family member or friend to your own periodontist.

What is the primary reason for brushing?

Daily brushing and flossing will keep the formation of plaque to a minimum. If not removed every 26 hours, plaque can turn into calculus, which can lead to periodontal diseases.

Is it normal for my gums to bleed when I brush my teeth?

Bleeding gums are one of the signs of gum disease. Think of gum tissue as the skin on your hand. If your hands bled every time you washed them, you would know something was wrong. There are a number of other warning signs of gum disease.

What kinds of oral care products should I use?

Here are some guidelines for choosing dental care products ? what works for most patients most of the time. To find out what is best for your particular needs, talk to your periodontist.

· Begin with the right equipment; a soft bristled toothbrush that allows you to reach every surface of each tooth. If the bristles on your toothbrush are bent or frayed, buy a new one. A worn-out brush will not clean your teeth properly.

· In addition to manual toothbrushes, your choices include automatic toothbrushes and "high tech" electronic toothbrushes. These are safe and effective for the majority of patients.

· Oral irrigators (water spraying devices) will not remove plaque from your teeth unless used in conjunction with brushing and flossing.

· Another aid is the rubber tip, often found on the handle end of a toothbrush used to massage the gums after brushing and flossing.

· Other options include interproximal toothbrushes (tiny brushes that clean plaque between teeth) and interdental cleaners (small sticks or picks that remove plaque between teeth). If used improperly, these dental aids can injure the gums, so it is important to discuss proper use with your periodontist.



What causes tooth loss?

Together, periodontal disease and cavities are the primary cause of tooth loss.

Does stress cause problems in the mouth?

High levels of financial stress and poor coping abilities increase the likelihood of developing periodontitis. Researchers found people who dealt with financial strain in an active and practical way (problem-focused) rather than with avoidance techniques (emotion-focused) had no more risk of severe periodontal disease than those without money problems.

What causes bad breath?

There are many factors that contribute to bad breath. For example, certain kinds of bacteria in the mouth produce volatile sulfur compounds. If these sulfur compounds build up enough, the result can be clinical bad breath, reports the American Dental Association. In addition to brushing and flossing, brushing the tongue (where sulfur resides) can help eliminate bad breath.

Other factors that contribute to bad breath include the following:

· Certain foods, such as garlic and onions. Once the food is absorbed into the bloodstream, it is transferred to the lungs, where it is expelled.

· Not brushing and flossing daily leaves particles of food in the mouth, which can collect bacteria.

· Dry mouth (xerostomia). Saliva is necessary to cleanse the mouth and remove particles that may cause odor.

· Tobacco use



Could my periodontal disease be genetic?

Research proves that up to 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. Despite aggressive oral care habits, these people may be six times more likely to develop periodontal disease. Identifying these people with a genetic test before they even show signs of the disease and getting them into early interventive treatment may help them keep their teeth for a lifetime.

Can I pass my periodontal disease to others?

Periodontal disease may be passed from parents to children and between couples, according to an article in the September 1997 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association. Researchers suggest that bacteria causing periodontal disease are passed though saliva. This means that when a family or couple come into contact with each other's saliva, they're at risk for contracting the periodontal disease of another family member. Based on this research, the American Academy of Periodontology recognizes that treatment of gum disease may involve entire families. If one family member has periodontal disease, the AAP recommends that all family members see a dental professional for a periodontal disease screening.

Does oral health affect overall health?

When the gums are infected, periodontal bacteria byproducts can enter the blood stream and travel to major organs and set off other problems. Research suggests this may: contribute to the development of heart disease, the nations leading cause of death; increase the risk of stroke; increase a woman's risk of having a preterm, low birth weight baby; and pose a serious threat to people whose health is compromised by diabetes, respiratory disease or osteoporosis.

Is there a relationship between tobacco use and periodontal disease?

Studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease. Smokers are much more likely than non-smokers to have calculus form on their teeth, have deeper pockets between the teeth and gums and lose more of the bone and tissue that support the teeth.

What is the relationship between periodontal disease and respiratory disease?

More research is needed to confirm how periodontal disease may put people at increased risk for respiratory disease. What we do know is that mouth infections like periodontal disease are associated with increased risk of respiratory infection. An analysis of research has revealed that periodontal (gum) disease may be a far more serious threat to your health than previously realized.

How does periodontal disease increase my risk for heart disease?

Several theories exist to explain the link between periodontal disease and heart disease. One theory is that oral bacteria can affect the heart when they enter the bloodstream, attaching to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries (heart blood vessels) and contributing to clot formation. Coronary artery disease is characterized by a thickening of the walls of the coronary arteries due to the buildup of fatty proteins. Blood clots can obstruct normal blood flow, restricting the amount of nutrients and oxygen required for the heart to function properly. This may lead to heart attacks. Researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without periodontal disease.

Can periodontal disease increase my risk for having a premature baby?

Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that is born too early and too small. More research is needed to confirm how periodontal disease may affect pregnancy outcomes. What we do know is that periodontal disease is an infection and all infections are cause for concern during pregnancy because they pose a risk to the health of the baby. If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, be sure to include an evaluation with a periodontist as part of your prenatal care.

What is the relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes?

For years we've known that people with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes. Recently, research has emerged suggesting that the relationship goes both ways: periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar. Though more research is needed, what we do know is that severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar, putting diabetics at increased risk for complications. If you are among the 16 million Americans who live with diabetes or are at risk for diabetes or periodontal disease, see a periodontist for an evaluation.

 FAQ’s were taken from the American Academy of Periodontology and can be found here:


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Periodontics & Implants, Ltd.

Richard C. Prendergast, D.D.S., M.S.

Frequently Asked Questions

*From the American Academy of Periodontology

 FAQ’s were taken from the American Academy of Periodontology and can be found here: