What You Should Know About Periodontal Disease

Other than tooth decay, periodontitis is the leading threat to dental health. Numerous studies have indicated a link between dental health, mental health, and your overall health.  Poor oral health has been associated with heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and lung infections. When it was believed that oral health was a problem in and of itself, the result was thought only to be tooth loss, and the counteragent dentures. Knowing what we know today, that dental health affects the health of your whole body, proper dental hygiene is of the utmost importance. In today’s blog your Lake Forest Dentist, Dr. Fondriest, discusses the stages of periodontal disease, symptoms, and treatments.

Periodontal Disease Statistics

In some form, whether mild, moderate, or severe, periodontal disease affects nearly half of all Americans aged 30 and older. Because it takes time to develop, primarily due to poor oral hygiene, it tends to show up later in life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report the following statistics:

  • The percentage of periodontal disease increases with age from 47.2% at age 30 and above, to 70.1% at age 65 and older
  • The percentage is higher for those living below poverty level (65.4%)
  • The percentage is higher for those without a high school diploma (66.9%)
  • The percentage is higher for smokers (64.2%)
  • The percentage is higher for men than women (56.4% to 38.4%)

About Gingivitis

Although we can’t know for sure how many, our mouths harbor thousands of bacteria. While most people only host 34 to 72 different types, over 700 strains have been found in the human oral cavity. While some are harmless, others are not.  It’s the harmful bacteria that cause gingivitis. They feast on leftover food particles, sugars, and starches in our mouths producing plaque–a clear, sticky biofilm that coats our teeth, particularly around the gingival tissue. If plaque is not removed it hardens into tartar which is a cement-like substance and can only be removed by a dental hygienist. The longer plaque remains on teeth the more damage it can do. It causes gingival inflammation called gingivitis, the earliest stage of periodontal disease. Because gingivitis is limited to the gingival tissue it can be treated and sometimes reversed with proper oral hygiene and professional dental cleanings. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen, and bleeding gums. Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis.

About Periodontitis

Periodontitis is full-blown, severe gum disease. When left untreated the plaque biofilm that causes gingivitis hardens into tartar and, as it continues to build up, can spread below the gumline, pushing the gums away from the teeth and causing gingival pockets to form. Because the tooth root is not protected with enamel, but rather a softer substance called cementum, it is vulnerable to decay. The bacteria ridden tartar eats away at the tooth root, connective tissue, and the jaw bone supporting the teeth, resulting in tooth loss. It is important to be aware of the symptoms of periodontal disease, which include:

  • Chronic bad breath
  • Tender, red, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Receding gums (gums pulling away from teeth)
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Pain while chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Tooth loss

Risk Factors

Certain risk factors have been associated with periodontal disease. These include:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes and other illnesses and their treatments, i.e., cancer and AIDS
  • Certain medications that cause dry mouth
  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes in women
  • Heredity


Scaling and root planning, and possibly a course of antibiotics, are common treatment for periodontal disease. Scaling consists of scraping the tartar off the teeth above and below the gumline. Root planing smoothes rough spots where the bacteria can gather, making it harder for them to adhere to the root surface. Scaling and root planing can be done with manual tools or ultrasonic tools which can be quicker, more effective, and more comfortable.

About Your Lake Forest Dentist:

Aside from providing expert family and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from the Chicago Metro area and all surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.

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