A recent major study reported that 1 in 2 adults over the age of 30 have periodontal disease. This may be even more important as periodontal disease has been linked to significant medical issues such as heart attacks, stroke, respiratory issues and even pre-term low birth weight babies.
What is Periodontal Disease:
Periodontal disease is a term that includes a number of diseases of the gum tissue and jaw bone. Examples include gum recession, gum inflammation, bone loss (that can lead to tooth loss) and lesions in the mouth. Gum and bone disease can occur rapidly or slowly over time.
The plaque in our mouths (the light film you can feel on your teeth), which consists of things such as bacteria and food debris, often accumulate along the gum line. If not removed with brushing and flossing, the plaque can calcify into tartar (also known as calculus). The tartar can then help catch even more plaque and continue the cycle. The body views this plaque as a bacterial infection and responds as it would to any other infection. Gum tissue fills with blood to help ward off the bacteria.
This gum swelling, known as Gingivitis, usually appears as puffy, red-purple and bleeding gums. The reaction is similar to the red and swollen appearance you get around a cut on your hand. A very important factor is that Gingivitis is REVERSIBLE. If addressed with professional treatment (often called by patients “deep cleaning”), the infection may be cleared and the inflammation typically resolves.
Should the process of Gingivitis not be properly addressed, (in most cases) the disease will progress to Periodontitis, a situation where the inflammation has now led to jaw bone loss. Ultimately, this can lead to tooth mobility and tooth loss. Periodontitis is IRREVERSIBLE loss of the jaw bone. A number of treatment options exist to help slow the continuation of this disease. The more advanced the disease becomes; the more difficult it may be to save one’s teeth. Preservation of the teeth and bone are a periodontist’s primary goal. Once a patient has periodontal disease, they have it for life. Continued professional hygiene appointments (usually every 3 months) are critical to helping keep the disease in remission.
A number of factors can influence the presence or severity of the disease. Commonly related factors include genetics (did mom and dad pass this on to you), personal oral hygiene, habits (such as smoking or tobacco chewing) and your own immune system. Once the disease begins, it is important to realize that the damaging bacteria present in the gums are now able to travel throughout the entire body possibly leading to systemic inflammation or medical issues.
Having a complete periodontal evaluation can be very critical to not only the health and preservation of the teeth, gums and jaw bone, but also the health of the entire body. It is important to remember the mouth and body are connected. A true periodontal evaluation is painless and includes a review of a full set of recent x-rays and gum measurements. Both of these are needed to help determine if you are one of the 50% that has the disease.
Lee R. Cohen, D.D.S., M.S., M.S., is a Dual Board Certified Periodontal and Dental Implant Surgeon. He is a graduate of Emory University and New York University College of Dentistry.
Dr. Cohen completed his surgical training at the University of Florida / Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. He served as Chief Resident and currently holds a staff appointment as a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Periodontics and Dental Implantology. Dr. Cohen lectures, teaches and performs clinical research on topics related to his surgical specialty.
The focus of his interests are conservative approaches to treating gum, bone and tooth loss. He utilizes advanced techniques including the use of the Periolase Dental Laser (LANAP procedure) to help save teeth, dental implants, regenerate supporting bone and treat periodontal disease without the use of traditional surgical procedures. Additionally, Dr. Cohen is certified in Pinhole Gum Rejuvenation, which is a scalpel and suture free procedure to treat gum recession with immediate results.
Dr. Cohen uses in-office, state of the art 3D CT imaging to develop the least invasive dental implant and bone regeneration treatment options. Dr. Cohen and his facility are state certified to perform both IV and Oral Sedation procedures. Botox® and Dermal Fillers are also utilized to enhance patients’ cosmetic outcomes.
Dr. Cohen formerly served on the Board of Trustees for the American Academy of Periodontology and the Florida Dental Association. He is past president of the Florida Association of Periodontists and the Atlantic Coast District Dental Association. Dr. Cohen is a member of the American College of Maxillofacial Implantology and the American Academy of Facial Esthetics. In addition, he has been awarded Fellowship in the American College of Dentists, International College of Dentists and the Pierre Fauchard Academy.