Healthy gums are the foundation of healthy teeth. If something is wrong with your gums like redness, swelling, or mouth irritation you could have a condition called periodontitis. A more common name for it is gum disease. Is it contagious? What is the treatment for it? Let’s look at what periodontitis is to answer that question.
What is Periodontitis?
Periodontitis, also known as gum disease, is an inflammation of the tissues surrounding the teeth. If not properly treated it can lead to the destruction of gum tissue and the bone structure of the jaw. Is periodontitis the same thing as gingivitis? No, gingivitis is a bacterial infection caused by plaque that builds up on teeth and gums. If that bacterial cause is not removed, the condition leads to gum disease and can put the patient at risk for tooth loss and severe infection.
Is Periodontitis Contagious?
Periodontal disease itself is not contagious in the way that other bacterial infections are. It is not spread through the air (droplets) because it is an infection in the soft tissue under the gums, but it does travel in the saliva of an infected person and could be spread through sharing toothbrushes or other personal care items used in the mouth if they are not properly disinfected after each use.
How Can Periodontitis Be Treated?
Periodontal disease progresses in stages. There are four stages in the progression of gum disease.
Stage one is gingivitis and is indicated by bad breath that doesn’t go away and gums that bleed during brushing. The first sign of infection is blood on your toothbrush or in the sink after rinsing. It does not always mean that you have gum disease if your gums bleed infrequently. This will be a frequent occurrence and may make brushing uncomfortable, causing some people to stop brushing for a day or so to let them heal.
This is the earliest stage and is when treatment is the most effective because it has not spread to the bones and soft tissue yet. The best treatment for gingivitis is to improve your oral hygiene by brushing three times per day, flossing, and seeing your dentist for professional teeth cleaning. Your dentist can also advise you on other ways to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Treating the disease at this stage is most effective and requires the least amount of invasive procedures.
Stage two is when the gums begin to show redness, swelling, and chewing can become painful.
Stage three is a little more severe with more signs of infection such as pockets of pus (an abscess) forming around the teeth, which can be very painful and may require treatment with antibiotics to eliminate. In the early stages, the treatment called for is scaling or root planing to remove the hardened plaque (tartar) from the teeth and surrounding base of the gum line.
Stage four is when the disease has progressed the most and may include loosening of teeth, teeth shifting, and bone degeneration. This is how the disease progresses, but if it is treated when still in the early stages, it is completely preventable.
What is Periodontal Therapy?
Periodontal therapy is a series of surgical and non-surgical procedures a periodontist uses to eliminate the infection and restore teeth and gums to healthy states. These treatments may include:
- Scaling and root planing
- Gum Grafting
- Periodontal laser treatment
- Periodontal plastic surgery
- Dental implants
Examples of Non-Surgical Treatments
- Antibiotics that target the infection
- Periodontal laser treatment to remove tartar
- Scaling and planing to remove tartar build-up
- Deep-cleaning and irrigation of the gumline
Examples of Surgical Treatments
- Gum grafting to strengthen areas where the gums have receded
- Bone grafting to prepare for dental implants
- Crown lengthening to even the gum line to improve smile
- Dental implants to restore lost teeth and improve your appearance
Benefits of Periodontal Therapy
Gum disease is not something that goes away on its own. If not treated the disease progresses until the teeth and bones are damaged to the point where it may become necessary for the teeth to be extracted and replaced with dentures. That is not a desirable outcome and treatment can save teeth and restore healthy gums.
The benefits of receiving therapy are the return of a beautiful smile, healthy teeth, fresh breath, and follow up treatments to ensure that your mouth is healthy and stays that way. Treating the disease will keep it from progressing and avoid needing further treatments in the long run.
Where to Find a Periodontist in Your Area
Dr. Marissa Crandall Cruz is a periodontist specializing in periodontal regeneration therapies, periodontal plastic surgery, and dental implant surgery. Dr. Cruz earned her Doctor of Dental Medicine at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL. and holds two masters’ degrees – one in biomedical science, and a second in oral biology. If you are in need of periodontal treatment in King of Prussia, visit Dr. Crandall-Cruz.