It is the branch of dentistry that encompasses the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gum diseases. These diseases are known generically as periodontal diseases; the most frequent are gingivitis and periodontitis, commonly known as 'pyorrhoea'. Dentists who are specialised in the diagnosis and treatment of these diseases are called periodontists.
These are diseases that affect the tissues that surround and support the teeth. They are infectious diseases and affect a significant percentage of the population. They are caused by bacteria that we all have in our mouths, around the teeth, and which, unless they are effectively eradicated, proliferate and may penetrate the gums, where they can no longer be reached by brushing. They cause painless destruction of bone tissue around the tooth, ultimately leading to loss of teeth if the condition is not treated in time. A genetic susceptibility to this disease has been proven, together with a series of factors that influence its progression: smoking, stress, poorly controlled diabetes, pregnancy, certain medications?
Many people are not aware that they have gum problems because these conditions are painless, except in the very advanced stages when they start to lose teeth. It is important to care for our mouth and see a periodontist if we detect any of the following:
· Reddened gums
· Gum bleeding
· Bad taste in the mouth
· Inflamed gums
· Sensation of lengthened teeth
· Gum discomfort
· Receding gums
· Tooth mobility (loose teeth)
· Sensitivity to cold
Once gingivitis or periodontitis has been diagnosed by clinical and X-ray examination, it can be cured by applying a meticulous periodontal treatment. The goal is to eliminate the bacteria that have accumulated inside the gums. This will require mechanical disinfection with manual or ultrasonic instruments. The treatment is not painful because it can be done with local anaesthesia.
Once the periodontal disease has been treated, there is only one way to prevent it from coming back: continue with a preventive treatment called periodontal maintenance, which consists of regular visits (normally twice a year) to remove dental plaque and tartar and inspect the gum and supporting bone.
- It is not part of the natural ageing process and therefore is not unavoidable.
- It can be contagious for susceptible people and it is hereditary.
- Mouth rinsing and toothpastes are not enough to cure periodontitis, nor is careful brushing or using an oral irrigator.
- It can be cured but it is unlikely that lost bone will be restored, so it is vital to detect it as early as possible.
- Treatment at an early stage is always less complex and simpler and more predictable.
When the disease is detected in very advanced stages, some or all of the teeth may be lost. In such cases, the possibility of replacing lost teeth with dental implants is considered. This is a highly predictable technique that provides an excellent functional and aesthetic result in most cases.