Periodontal disease is actually an infectious disease. Periodontal disease is a gum disease. It’s an infection of the oral cavity, of the bones and the gum tissue around the teeth. So it’s all the supporting structures we’re talking about. So when your teeth bleed or your gums bleed, that’s a sign that there’s an infection going on. It’s not to be taken lightly either, because it is infectious, and number two, it can really be a big detriment to your overall health, not just to your teeth.
One of the ways that gum disease works is, it’s primarily caused by bacteria in the mouth, and the bacteria gets in there. And we all know about tooth decay. But the same kind of bacteria or some of the other ones that live in your body, basically, they will also eat away at the gums and the bone, the foundation around the teeth. That’s what causes the gums to bleed.
People who get bad breath, a lot of times the bad breath isn’t something from what they ate, it’s actually from the gums that are constantly bleeding underneath their tissue. I have a lot of patients who come in saying, “Yeah, my gums have always bled. It doesn’t bother me.” And that’s the insidious part about the whole thing, is gum disease doesn’t hurt. Now, sometimes it does, but generally when it does, it’s in its very aggressive, late form. And at that point, generally, the teeth, we can’t save them.
Gum disease is caused by bacteria, and the only way to get it under control is to remove the bacteria. So, one way is to do cleanings. That’s why we inform people you should have your teeth cleaned every six months. For some people, it’s every three months. It’s tailored to the individual and the diagnosis. Now, if you have an active infection and it’s bad, we will sometimes do what’s called a deep cleaning. A deep cleaning is generally where we get you numb, go under, and the hygienist cleans and removes all the bacteria.
We also use antibiotics. We can use things called Perio Protect, different types of delivery systems that will kill the bacteria in the mouth that are non-surgical. Surgery is generally another route. Nowadays, it’s less painful than it used to be because we can use lasers and other types of instrumentation so that there’s less bleeding, less trauma to the area.
But in some instances, surgery might be the answer, because if you have bad gum disease, and it’s attacked and destroyed some of the bone around your teeth, surgery enables us to go in and repair the bone. Whereas all the other avenues, killing the bacteria with antibiotics, going in and cleaning, although that might remove the infection, it’s not repairing any of the foundation. So that’s why a good diagnosis is key to what’s going on.
If you suspect you have gum disease or you suspect, “Oh I think I have a problem,” the first thing that you need, is you need a diagnosis. And you need to see a dentist and have a diagnosis of what’s going on, because you want to know what stage the disease is in. Okay? Because there are different kinds of treatments that you can do. Some of it’s surgery, and that’s scary, some of it’s non-surgical and not as scary, but it really depends on the diagnosis for the patient.