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Periodontal simply means "around teeth" and people usually only think of their gums but in reality it is their gums, the underlying bone structure of the jaws, the ligament that attaches between tooth and jaw and all the associated tissues that in one way or another maintain healthy stable teeth.
"Gum disease" is sowewhat a misnomer in that only in its earliest stage is it gum only and the disease that a patient will notice for themselves may already be affecting their deeper tissues. [ specifically the periodontal ligament and bone levels]
Let's call it gum disease for convenience although a dentist will describe the degree of periodontal diseaseand this is graded depending on the tissues involved and how severe the damage is.
It is a very common disease and its prevalence (how much it occurs) is almost universal....
It is caused by groups of bacteria that naturally occur on our teeth. Once visible, we call it PLAQUE or a BIOFILM.
It is also incredibly easy to prevent. Gum disease is not generally associated with perfectly clean teeth. So if you are good at cleaning your teeth and you let your dentist help with a bit of advice and his specialist ultrasonic devices then you can remain entirely healthy throughout your life. Its a team approach.
Let me clarify.... perfectly healthy teeth = teeth retained for life. Patients should retain their teeth into their 90s and beyond.
How do you know if you have gum disease? The symptoms:
Bleeding gums, sensitivity to cold foods and air, some gum recession, perhaps food is trapped easily between teeth, halitosis, your mouth and breath just do not feel great and at worst some teeth may feel loose.
First the good news..as said before it is easy to prevent, it is also easy to completely cure in its earliest stages. However at later stages you will have permanent damage. Even with early permanent bone loss we can still stop further progress but if it has been left too long (and there is too much bone loss) it becomes virtually impossible to stabilise.
It remains a mystery to me as to why the UK government continues to tolerate such a high level of this disease especially as there is growing evidence that some heart disease, type 2 diabetes and several other potentially fatal conditions may have their origins here.
So it is all about keeping teeth clean both regularly and methodically. A discussion therefore needs to look at the following:
Where are these bacteria hiding?
What sort of toothbrush Manual or Electric?
Is there a reliable tooth brushing technique?
Why interdental cleaning?
Can mouthwash and other techniques help? and other oral hygiene advice.
Is there anything more to help?
Treatment of GUM DISEASE used to involve lots of scaling followed by some minor surgery.
The good news is that various experimental trials showed the surgery nearly always showed no specific benefit, the bad news is that you still need all the scaling.
Very rarely and usually in quite specific or advanced cases surgery still has a role.... its rare these days.