THE PREVALENCE OF PERIODONTAL DISEASE
According to recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of Americans aged 30 or older have periodontitis, the more advanced form of periodontal disease. This equals approximately 64.7 million Americans.
THE CAUSES & SYMPTOMS
Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease that affects the soft and hard structures that support the teeth. In its early stage, called gingivitis, the gums become swollen and red due to inflammation, which is the body’s natural response to the presence of harmful bacteria. In the more serious form of periodontal disease called periodontitis, the gums pull away from the tooth and supporting gum tissues are destroyed. Bone can be lost, and the teeth may loosen or eventually fall out.
Chronic periodontitis, the most advanced form of the disease, progresses relatively slowly in most people and is typically more evident in adulthood. Although inflammation as a result of a bacterial infection is behind all forms of periodontal disease, a variety of factors can influence the severity of the disease. Important risk factors include inherited or genetic susceptibility, smoking, lack of adequate home care, age, diet, health history, and medications.
THE PERIO-SYSTEMIC CONNECTION
Several research studies have suggested that periodontal disease is connected to variety of other diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Scientists believe that inflammation may be the basis for the link between these systemic diseases. While periodontists are experts in treating oral inflammation, additional research is needed to better understand how treating periodontal disease may reduce the risk of developing other inflammatory diseases.
DIAGNOSING PERIODONTAL DISEASE
Periodontists typically rely on a visual assessment of the patient’s overall oral condition in addition to charting pocket depths with a periodontal probe. This visual/mechanical method of assessing periodontal disease status can only tell whether or not disease is present. There are other tests currently available that go beyond basic and subjective visual assessment to provide dental professionals with the detailed genetic and biological information required to better determine the appropriate treatment regimen for each individual patient. This information includes evaluating the inflammatory burden that is causing periodontal disease, as well as looking at the patient’s unique genetic susceptibility to periodontal disease.
Periodontists offer a wide range of treatments, such as scaling and root planing (in which the infected surface of the root is cleaned) or root surface debridement. They can also treat patients using a range of surgical procedures, for both the treatment of severe periodontal disease and for cosmetic purposes. In addition, periodontists are specially trained in the placement and repair of dental implants.