Periodontics is the branch of dentistry concerned with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the supporting structures of the teeth. It is chiefly concerned with preventing the progress of gum disease, but can also involve the surgical correction of uneven or receding gums, and the placement of dental implants and their subsequent care.
Gum disease is a very common condition caused by the bacteria in plaque, which gradually builds up on the surface of the teeth and eventually hardens, becoming tartar. This can cause inflammation and bleeding of the gums, which is known as gingivitis and is the early reversible stage of the disease. If this is left untreated, it can develop into periodontitis, a more serious irreversible stage that can only be managed rather than cured, and which affects around 10-15% of the population. It can cause pockets to develop between the root of the tooth and the gum, which may result in tooth loss.
Although not always obvious, symptoms of gum disease can include:
- Bleeding when you brush
- Swollen, red gums
- Bad breath or a metallic taste
- Gum recession
- Sensitive teeth
Regular screening of teeth and gums can ensure any issues are swiftly spotted, helping to slow or halt the disease.
The level of treatment required for gum disease will be based on the severity of the disease but it will include plaque control and demonstrating the most effective techniques for keeping teeth clean.
If gum disease has developed beyond the early stages, a thorough clean under the gums, known as root planing, will be required to remove hidden bacterial build up. This involves scaling of the root surface, which can reduce inflammation of the gum tissue. Surgical procedures can also be used to address deep gum pockets.
The chief risk factors for gum disease are poor oral hygiene, smoking, diabetes, having a genetic propensity, a lowered immunity and certain medications. Early diagnosis and prevention are the best ways to help reduce your chances of developing the disease.
Taking care of teeth and gums can also benefit your whole body as inadequate oral hygiene has been linked to the development of certain health conditions, such as heart disease and strokes.