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What is periodontics?

Periodontics is a specialized branch of dental medicine concerned with periodontal health. It aims at assessing and caring for the periodontium, which is composed of the tissues that support teeth.

The periodontium includes:

The gums

Soft tissue that surrounds teeth and covers the jawbone. Their role is to support teeth and keep them solidly in place.

The alveolar bone

Part of the jawbone that contains the dental roots.

The cementum

Protects and completely covers the dental roots inside the alveolar bone.

The periodontal ligament

Located between the cementum and the alveolar bone. The tissue completely surrounds dental roots.

The nerves and blood vessels

Located in the centre of the dental root, as well as around the tooth in different areas of the periodontium.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease affects the various components of the periodontium. The most common periodontal diseases are gingivitis and periodontitis.

These diseases develop from bacterial and parasitic infections. Poor oral hygiene leads to an accumulation of bacteria on teeth, forming a sticky, transparent film called plaque. Plaque sticks to difficult-to-reach areas, between teeth and along the periodontal zone. If it isn’t removed on a daily basis, plaque calcifies and hardens, becoming tartar. The acid attacks the enamel, forming a cavity and causing swelling of the gums, or gingivitis. When gingivitis is left untreated, it can lead to periodontitis

Risk factors

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Pregnancy or menopause (hormonal changes)
  • Weak immune system (HIV, AIDS, leukemia, etc.)

Understanding gingivitis

Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease. It is a common, minor inflammation of the gums. 70% of the population will suffer from gingivitis at one point, as well as 64% of pregnant women.

Gingivitis is caused by poor oral hygiene because bacteria proliferate along the gum line.

Symptoms

Since gingivitis is often painless, many people don’t know they have it until the following symptoms appear:

  • Bleeding during brushing or flossing
  • Red and swollen gums
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Persistent bad breath

Treatment

  • Professional tartar removal by a dental hygienist
  • Brushing twice a day
  • Flossing every night before bed
  • Using fluoride toothpaste

To treat gingivitis, the dental hygienist will perform a deep cleaning of the teeth. Using various tools, the hygienist removes tartar accumulated along the gum line.

Good oral hygiene must then be practiced at home. Once the tartar has been removed and proper oral hygiene is maintained, gums can return to normal. The symptoms of gingivitis (redness, bleeding, etc.) will progressively disappear.

Understanding periodontitis

Periodontitis is the advanced stage of periodontal disease and the result of untreated gingivitis. Bacteria, which have infiltrated the gums, now infect the periodontal pockets. Gradually, they attack the periodontium which supports teeth. Gums thin out and retract and, once the periodontal ligament and alveolar bone are affected, teeth begin to loosen.

The damage caused by periodontitis is irreversible and tooth loss may occur if the disease is left untreated.

Symptoms

  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Gingival recession
  • Abscesses
  • Loose teeth
  • Loss of teeth

Treatment

Because of its worrisome consequences, periodontitis should be addressed quickly. The dentist will assess the severity of the situation and develop a suitable treatment plan, which will include:

  1. Tartar removal
  2. Deep cleaning of periodontal pockets to eliminate bacteria
  3. Root planing to remove bacteria stuck on roots
  4. Antibiotics, if needed
  5. Reshaping of gums, if needed (gingivoplasty)
  6. Bone graft, if needed

Periodontal disease is insidious and it can have very detrimental consequences if it isn’t diagnosed and treated in time. Meticulous oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups are essential to preventing it.