Dr. Lear is a Board Certified periodontist with over 25 years experience. She has extensive specialty training (3 additional years of education beyond dental school) in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal (gum) disease. Her advanced training included dental implants and oral pathology. Periodontics is one of the 8 specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.

Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Periodontal disease affects one of every two Americans age 30 and older. Periodontal (gum) disease, which is also known as periodontitis, is a progressive and often silent disease which, if left untreated, may result in tooth loss. Gum disease begins with the inflammation and irritation of the gingival tissues which surround and support the teeth. The cause of this inflammation is the bacterial toxins found in plaque and your immune response to the bacteria which lead to an ongoing infection.

The bacterial infection colonizes in the gingival tissue and deep pockets form between the teeth and the gums. If treated promptly by a periodontist, the effects of mild inflammation (known as gingivitis) are completely reversible. However, if the bacterial infection is allowed to progress, periodontal disease (known as periodontitis) begins to destroy the gums and the underlying jawbone causing swelling, irritation, receding gums and tooth loss. In some cases, the bacteria from this infection can travel to other areas of the body by the bloodstream. Periodontal disease can be transmitted through the saliva.

Gingival Probing and Pocket Depth

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Common Causes of Periodontal (Gum) Disease

  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Smoking and tobacco use
  • Diabetes and underlying medical issues like respiratory disease, heart disease, arthritis and osteoporosis
  • Genetic predisposition-as much as 30% of the population are six times more likely to develop periodontal disease
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause
  • Chronic stress and poor diet
  • Clenching or grinding of the teeth can accelerate the progression of gum disease
  • Medications, such as oral contraceptive pills, heart medicines, anti-depressants and steroids

Symptoms of Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Periodontal infection is usually painless until it reaches an advanced stage. However, there are some symptoms which can indicate the presence of periodontal (gum) disease.

These Include:

  • Red, swollen or tender gums or other pain in your mouth
  • Bleeding while brushing (pink toothbrush bristles), flossing, or when eating certain foods
  • Aching, itchy, sore or tender gums
  • Receding gums (teeth beginning to look longer)
  • Pus between your teeth and gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Any change in the fit of partial dentures
  • Loose, separating or protruding teeth
  • Spaces between teeth
  • Sores in your mouth

If you notice any of the above warning signs of periodontal disease, please call our office to schedule a periodontal examination.

Consequences of Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Periodontal (gum) disease is a serious infection that can release bacteria into the bloodstream and travel throughout your body.

  • Heart Disease and Heart Attack – Studies have shown that people with periodontal disease are 2.7 times more likely to suffer a heart attack.
  • Stroke – Studies have also shown that people with periodontal disease are 3 times more likely to suffer a stroke.
  • Pre-Term Childbirth – Women with periodontal disease are 7-8 times more likely to give birth prematurely to a low birth-weight baby.
  • Diabetes – Periodontal infection can raise blood sugar in diabetic patients. Periodontal treatment often results in a reduced need for insulin.
  • Respiratory Disease – Research has found that bacteria that grow in the mouth can be inhaled into the lungs to cause respiratory diseases especially in people with periodontal disease. Periodontal infection can increase the severity of such respiratory diseases as pneumonia, bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Cancer – Researchers found that men with gum disease were 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30% more likely to develop blood cancers. A recent study found that individuals with periodontal disease have a 1.24-fold increase risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Osteoporosis – Researchers have suggested a link between osteoporosis and periodontal disease. Studies suggest that osteoporosis may lead to tooth loss because the density of the bone that supports the teeth may be decreased, which means the teeth no longer have a solid foundation. Studies conducted over a period of 10 years also discovered that osteoporosis patients could significantly reduce tooth loss by controlling periodontal disease.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis – Research suggests that tooth loss, a marker for periodontal (gum) disease, may predict rheumatoid arthritis and its severity. One study of 6,616 men and women, those who had moderate to severe periodontitis had more than twice the risk of rheumatoid arthritis compared to those with mild or no periodontitis.

It is important to treat periodontal disease as quickly as possible to avoid the release of bacteria into your bloodstream causing inflammation. Periodontal health is a key component to a healthy body.

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