About Periodontal Disease


Periodontal treatment is necessary when various conditions affect the health of your gums and the regions of your jawbone that hold your teeth in place. Retaining your teeth is directly dependent on proper periodontal care and maintenance. Healthy gums enhance the appearance of your teeth, like a frame around a beautiful painting. When your gums become unhealthy, they can either recede or become swollen and red. In later stages, the supporting bone is destroyed and your teeth will shift, loosen, or fall out. These changes not only affect your ability to chew and speak, they also spoil your smile.

Periodontics Presentation

To provide you with a better understanding of periodontics, we have provided the following multimedia presentation. Many common questions pertaining to periodontal treatments are discussed.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal diseases are infections of the gums that gradually destroy the support of your natural teeth. Dental plaque is the primary cause of gum disease in genetically-susceptible individuals. Bacteria found in plaque produce toxins that irritate the gums. They may cause them to turn red, swell, and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth causing pockets (spaces) to form.

Plaque can also harden into a rough substance known as calculus (or tartar). This can occur both above and below the gum line. As periodontal diseases progress, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorate. If left untreated, this leads to tooth loss. However, dont be fooled. With periodontal disease, bleeding, redness, and swelling do not have to be present. Further, pain is usually not associated with periodontal disease. This disease damages the teeth, gum, and jawbone of more than 80 percent of Americans by age 45. Periodontal disease is also the leading cause of bad breath (halitosis) in adults.

Preventing Gum Disease

Adults over the age of 35 lose more teeth to gum diseases than from cavities. Three out of four adults are affected at some time in their life. The best way to prevent cavities and Periodontal Diseases is by thorough tooth brushing and flossing techniques and regular visits to your dentist and periodontist. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home care, people still can develop some form of periodontal disease. Once this disease starts, professional intervention is necessary to prevent its progress.

Other important factors affecting the health of your gums include:

  • Smoking/smokeless tobacco
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • Clenching and grinding teeth
  • Medication
  • Poor nutrition

The Mouth-Body Connection

About Periodontal Disease Recent research shows that an infection in your mouth, such as periodontal disease, can affect your overall health. Bacteria, and bacterial by-products, enter the blood stream during routine brushing, flossing and eating activities. Evidence indicates that periodontal disease can lead to an elevated risk of stroke, heart attack, atherosclerosis, pre-term low birth weight infants, pneumonia, and can affect control of diabetes. Additionally, a new study out of the Harvard School of Public Health has linked gum disease to an elevated risk of pancreatic cancer. Keep reading below to learn more about the Mouth-Body connection, or visit the American Academy of Periodontology website (www.perio.org) for more up-to-date information on how an infection in your mouth can affect your overall health.

Heart Disease, Stroke, Atherosclerosis and Periodontal Disease

About Periodontal Disease Heart disease (or cardiovascular disease) affects more than 60 million Americans. It is the leading cause of death in the United States, yet many types of heart disease may be prevented. Recent research indicates that the bacteria which infect the gums and cause periodontal disease may increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. In fact researchers have found that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without periodontal disease. Mounting evidence has led researchers to warn the public “Don’t let your mouth pollute your clean heart”.

If your gums are infected with the bacteria which cause periodontal disease, your bloodstream acts as a direct pathway between your mouth and all of your bodys organs (much like a polluted river affecting a lake downstream). Large population based studies have indicated an elevated risk of heart attack or stroke for individuals with periodontal disease. Other studies have isolated the same types of bacteria known to cause gum disease in clogged (atherosclerotic) arteries. For more information on this important health risk please visit The American Academy of Periodontology website at www.perio.org.

Smoking and Periodontal Disease

You are probably familiar with the links between tobacco use and lung disease, cancer, and heart disease. Numerous studies have now linked periodontal disease with tobacco usage (smoking). Evidence indicates that smokers are three (3) times more likely to have severe periodontal disease than non-smokers. Smokers are also significantly more likely to lose their teeth. Chemicals in tobacco such as nicotine and tar also slow down healing and the predictability of success following periodontal treatment.

Problems caused by tobacco include:

Lung disease, heart disease, cancer, mouth sores, gum recession, loss of bone and teeth, bad breath, tooth staining, less success with periodontal treatment and with dental implants.

Quitting smoking/tobacco will reduce the chance of developing the above problems!

Diabetes and Periodontal Disease

Research indicates that there is a two-way relationship between periodontal diseases and diabetes: 1) Studies show that diabetics are at a 3 times greater risk of having more severe periodontal disease. Chronic high blood sugar readings decrease your bodys ability to fight infection (such as periodontal disease) and result in more advanced bone loss around teeth. 2) Studies also show that the presence of periodontal disease can reduce your bodys ability to utilize sugar (glucose) in your blood and result in poor blood sugar control.

Periodontal Diseases / Diabetes

Simply stated, periodontal disease can make your diabetes harder to control, and diabetes can make your periodontal disease more severe.

The good news

Research shows that periodontal treatment can enhance your blood sugar control and keep your diabetes in check. Thus, allowing us to help save your teeth, may have the added benefit of preventing many of the long term consequences of diabetes including vision problems, nerve problems, kidney problems, and better wound healing

Women and Periodontal Disease

Throughout a womans life, hormonal changes affect tissue throughout the body. Fluctuations in levels occur during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. At these times, the chance of periodontal disease may increase, requiring special care of your oral health.


During puberty, there is increased production of sex hormones. These higher levels increase gum sensitivity and lead to greater irritations from plaque and food particles. The gums can become swollen, turn red, and feel tender.


Similar symptoms occasionally appear several days before menstruation. There can be bleeding of the gums, bright red swelling between the teeth and gums, or sores on the inside of the cheek. The symptoms clear up once the period has started. As the amount of sex hormones decrease, so do these signs and symptoms.


Your gums and teeth are also affected during pregnancy. Between the second and eighth month, your gums may also swell, bleed, and become red or tender. Large lumps may appear as a reaction to local irritants. However, these growths are generally painless and not cancerous. They may require professional removal, but usually disappear after pregnancy.

Periodontal health should be part of your prenatal care. Any infections during pregnancy, including periodontal infections, can place a baby’s health at risk.

About Periodontal Disease

Recent evidence indicates that the presence of periodontal disease during pregnancy results in a significantly elevated risk for complications of your babys health. These include restriction of the babies weight at birth and premature delivery, which as many mothers know can lead to significant long term disabilities for a child (e.g. Asthma, learning difficulties, susceptibility to infections or disease).

The good news

Recent research shows that treatment of periodontal disease in pregnant women significantly reduces the risk of having a small or premature baby. Please visit the American Academy of Periodontology website at www.perio.org for more up-to-date information on this important health risk.

The best way to prevent periodontal infections is to begin with healthy gums and continue to maintain your oral health with proper home care and careful monitoring.

Oral Contraceptives

Swelling, bleeding, and tenderness of the gums may also occur when you are taking oral contraceptives, which are synthetic hormones.

You must mention any prescriptions you are taking, including oral contraceptives, prior to medical or dental treatment. This will help eliminate the risk of drug interactions, such as antibiotics with oral contraceptives where the effectiveness of the contraceptive can be lessened.


Changes in the look and feel of your mouth may occur if you are menopausal or post-menopausal. They include feeling pain and burning in your gum tissue and salty, peppery, or sour tastes. Careful oral hygiene at home and professional cleaning may relieve these symptoms.

Careful oral hygiene at home and professional cleaning may relieve these symptoms. There are also saliva substitutes to treat the effects of dry mouth (also known as xerostomia).