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With increasing links between periodontal disease and systemic diseases maintaining gum health has never been so important.
Gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in the western world and most sufferers are unaware of their problem.
Untreated gum disease results in loosening and eventual loss of the teeth.
As with many other disease processes the earlier treatment is carried out the better the prognosis. Unfortunately the disease can be active for years before symptoms appear (such as the teeth loosening). In all cases long term management and re-assessment is essential.
Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that affects the tissues and bone that support the teeth. As the tissues are damaged a pocket between the tooth and gum develops. Generally the more severe the disease, the greater the pocket depth - and subsequent bone loss. The enlarged pockets allow harmful bacteria to grow. Left un-treated periodontal disease will lead to premature tooth loss.
It is possible to have periodontal disease without apparent symptoms.
Tooth loss is not the only potential problem posed by periodontal diseases. Medical research suggests there may be a link between periodontal disease and other health concerns such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, bacterial pneumonia and increased risk during pregnancy. The very latest research indicates there may be a link to some cancers and even erectile dysfunction.
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During your dental examination the dentist or hygienist examines your gums. This is called a periodontal examination. A periodontal probe is gently used to measure the depth of the sulcus (pocket) around each tooth. The periodontal probe can indicate whether you have developed any pockets and the depth of those pockets.
Dental x-rays are necessary at intervals to evaluate the amount of bone supporting the teeth and to detect other problems not visible during the clinical examination.
If periodontal disease is diagnosed the hygienist may provide treatment or you may be referred to a periodontist, a dentist who specialises in the treatment of periodontal diseases.