The term “periodontal” literally means “around the tooth”. Most people consider periodontal tissues to be the gum tissues that surround the teeth and the underlying jawbone that anchors the teeth firmly in place. In addition to these tissues, however, there is a thin layer of cells on the tooth roots called cementum and a ligament that connects the cementum to the specialized bone that holds teeth, alveolar bone. Periodontal diseases are those diseases that affect one or more of these periodontal tissues.
The term “periodontics” refers to the dental specialty that pertains to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal diseases that affects the gums and jawbone. Periodontists have completed several years of extra dental training and are specialists in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease and in the placement of dental implants. Periodontists are familiar with the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease.
About Periodontal Disease
While there are many different diseases that affect the tooth supporting structures, plaque-induced inflammatory lesions make up the vast majority of periodontal diseases and have traditionally been divided into two categories, gingivitis or periodontitis. They can affect one tooth or many teeth.
Gingivitis is a milder and reversible form of periodontal disease that only affects the gums. In many patients an inflammatory overreaction to the bacteria results in the body, in essence, turning on itself and destroying the supporting tissues around the teeth, including the bone. At this point the condition has progressed to the more serious, destructive forms of periodontal disease called periodontitis. The gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.
More than one in three people over the age of 30 have a form of periodontal disease that has advanced beyond gingivitis. However, because periodontal disease develops silently and painlessly, the majority of people do not even realize they have it. Periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults living in the developed world, and should be taken very seriously for that reason, however, accumulating research also links periodontal diseases to general health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, and preterm low birth weight babies.
The main cause of periodontal diseases is bacterial plaque, a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. However, factors like the following also affect your periodontal health:
- Smoking/tobacco use
- Puberty, pregnancy, and menopause in women
- Clenching or Grinding Your Teeth
- Poor Nutrition
- Symptoms of periodontal disease