Check us out on YouTube as we talk teeth #watchyourmouthSpanish
Check us out on YouTube as we talk teeth #watchyourmouthSpanish

Periodontal Disease: 5 Things You Need to Know

Understanding Periodontal Disease with Dr. Brett Langston

Hi, I’m Dr. Brett Langston. I’m a prosthodontist and the owner of Dental Implant and Aesthetic Specialist here in Brookhaven, Georgia, and I’m here to help you watch your mouth. Here are five things you need to know about periodontal disease. Fun fact number one: the most common infectious disease in the world is actually gingivitis. It’s very common, very prevalent. So, what is gingivitis? Gingivitis is basically an inflammation of the gum tissue. 

The Progression from Gingivitis to Periodontal Disease

What causes that is when plaque and bacteria accumulate on the tooth surface, and the tissue can’t adhere to the tooth in a healthy way, so it gets inflamed and swollen, red and angry. And if gingivitis isn’t treated and the teeth aren’t cleaned and taken care of, it will progress to periodontal disease. So periodontal disease is once that gingivitis has gotten more involved and actually causes bone loss, and unfortunately, your body’s not able to grow bone back. 

Transition to Periodontal Disease and Bone Loss

So, the only way to replace missing bone is either through bone grafting or some other procedure that rebuilds the lost bone. But we’re a little limited in our capability to do that. So, the best solution is going to be to prevent bone loss in the first place. So, periodontal diseases are generally caused by two factors. You have to have the bacteria present that caused the bone loss, and you have to have a host in the mouth that is susceptible or vulnerable to that bacteria attacking the teeth. 

Genetic Factors and Bacterial Influence

I always tell patients the genetics of what you have in your mouth is, as I call it, a genetic lottery. You get your bacteria from your parents. The bacteria that they have in their mouth is passed along to you. So sometimes those bacteria are healthy and happy and don’t cause any problems. Sometimes, they cause you to get more cavities than your friends and neighbors. Sometimes, they have bacteria that actually attack the bone. So, no matter what you do, brush, floss, or do a good job, the bacteria in your mouth are actually going to attack the bone and cause periodontal bone loss. So you might hear from your dentist: you’ve got periodontal disease. And you’re thinking: “Oh my goodness, I’m going to lose all my teeth, my mouth is going to fall apart. I won’t be able to chew or eat.” Well, this is not the case. The nice thing about periodontal disease is that if we catch it early with proper treatment and care at your dentist’s office, we can not only stop the periodontal disease but also help maintain and prevent it from continuing. 

Importance of Professional Cleaning and Maintenance

The big thing is if you have the bacteria and they’re in your pockets around the teeth or if you leave them there, and we don’t get ’em cleaned out, you’re going to get periodontal disease. So, when coming to the dentist, sometimes the procedure is called scaling and root planning. So basically, do not go in the weeds, but you’ve got your tooth, and you’ve got the gum tissue that’s attached to the tooth. You can have little pockets where bacteria can sneak down in there, and as long as they’re under one to two millimeters, your normal toothbrushing does a great job of cleaning ’em out. 

The Importance of Early Detection and Dental Visits

The problem arises when you have deeper pockets, and the bacteria sneak down to the point where you can’t get them out with your toothbrush. You can brush for 30 minutes a day, but if you can’t get in those pockets, you’re not going to get the bacteria out. So that’s when you need the help of a dental professional. A lot of times, you do have to get numb. Sometimes, we have to manipulate the tissue to get access to clean everything, but once you’ve had that cleaning in a healthy mouth with good home care, that healthy tissue will reattach to the tooth. We can stop further periodontal bone loss and even maintain nice healthy bone levels. 

Collaborative Family Insights in Dentistry

So, fun fact: I’m actually married to a periodontist. So, a lot of our dinnertime conversations revolve around dental plans, dental treatment, periodontal disease, and how we’re treating our patients. I can’t tell you the number of times our kids have sat there rolling their eyes because we’re talking about the latest dental treatment, the latest dental technology, and some amazing cases that we worked on together. Her name’s Dr. Lindsay. Here’s her address if you’re interested. She’s a phenomenal periodontist. 

Some of my favorite cases are ones that we get to work on together as a periodontist. She focuses a lot on the gum, the bone, the tissue, and everything underneath the teeth. And as a prosthodontist, I get to focus more on the restorative side. So the pretty stuff, the fun stuff, the teeth on top, the aesthetic work. But working together, it’s been really neat for us to share some cases because periodontist disease is something that, when left untreated, can lead to some pretty significant problems, whether it’s on the lighter side, bad breath, uncomfortable tissue, all the way to the extremes of tooth mobility, tooth loss, bone loss, even to the point where we can’t really restore with implants

The Silent Progression of Periodontal Disease

So, the good news about periodontal disease is that it is treatable. The bad news is, unfortunately, I compare it to cardiovascular disease in that it’s not really painful until it gets to the point where it’s problematic. So the big thing is with heart attacks, they come out of nowhere. But if you look back, all the signs are there that you had inflammation. All the signs are there that you have unhealthy tissue and unhealthy blood vessels. So, if you’re concerned about periodontal disease and you’re noticing any kind of mobility, any kind of strange taste in your mouth, or any kind of bone loss, please come see us because it’s absolutely critical that we treat you as early as possible to prevent further damage. 

Regular Dental Visits for Early Detection

The disease can progress slowly with really no signs or symptoms besides occasional discomfort. Then, all of a sudden, bam, you’ve got a loose tooth in your mouth, and you have no idea why. So, while there are some telltale signs of periodontal disease with bone loss, bad breath, tooth mobility, gingival recession, and the appearance of really long teeth, sometimes the initial phases are not noticeable to you at home. So it’s really important for you to have a really good relationship with the dentist. A lot of times when you come in for your typical hygiene appointments, we do a really good job of screening, measuring bone loss, measuring tissue levels, measuring overall health. So, if you have a long track record with your dental practice, we can see your baseline and make sure something’s not going amiss. Because with periodontal disease, the earlier you catch it, the better outcome you have. 

Contact Dr. Brett Langston Today

If you have any questions about your mouth, whether you might have periodontal disease, or any other general questions, reach out to us. We’d love to see you and talk to you about your dental health. I’m Dr. Brett Langton. I’m here to help you watch and fix the root cause of periodontal disease