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Periodontitis is chronic and occurs when plaque by-products lead to the destruction of the tissues that anchor teeth in the bone. As the disease progresses, pockets form and allow more plaque to collect below the gum line. Tooth roots are exposed and may become at risk for decay and are sensitive to cold and touch. In advanced periodontitis, the teeth lose more support as the disease continues to destroy the periodontal ligament and bone. Unless treated, the affected teeth frequently become loose and may fall out or require removal by a dentist.
Periodontitis can last forever if you never see a dentist to have it treated. Likewise, as long as periodontitis is left untreated, the disease will progress and worsen. If you have the symptoms of periodontitis, it is recommended that you see a dentist as soon as possible.
Periodontitis is a chronic lifelong disease. Once you have it, you generally need to be monitored for the rest of your life. Initial therapy should arrest the disease and put it into remission. Unfortunately, it is common for people to have a flare up at a later time. People who have been treated for periodontitis generally need to visit their dental office every three months (often alternating with a periodontist). These frequent visits are one of the most important factors in keeping the disease at bay. With that, people treated for periodontitis need meticulous home care. Floss is often not the best choice for people who have had periodontitis as it may not be able to access areas that have been affected by the disease. An interproximal brush or water flosser is a better choice along with twice daily tooth brushing.
Periodontitis is a genetically inherited disease that is acquired at birth and is present for life. In 80% of people with periodontitis it starts showing up as tooth associated bone loss in their late twenties to mid-thirties and then progresses painlessly. The bone loss can be stopped with treatment, but the disease cannot be cured. If patients with periodontitis experiences inflammation in their gum tissue they will get bone loss around their teeth. Unless the inflammation is extreme most patients do not know they have it. Treating periodontitis to prevent tooth loss requires periodic visits to a dentist, a hygienist, and/or a periodontist over the patient’s life time.
There is no way to accurately predict exactly how long periodontitis will last. Periodontitis is more severe form of gum disuse in which the tissues under the gum line become infected with bacteria, and the gums start pulling away from the teeth. While gingivitis, a less severe form of gum disease, may last for weeks or months and then improve with better brushing and flossing habits, periodontitis is harder to treat. This is because the bacteria have damaged the gum tissue and often have also started damaging the bone that supports the teeth and gums.
Even though there is no way to know how long periodontitis will last, there are ways to help control its progress and reduce the risk of tooth loss. These include:
- scaling, which is a deep-cleaning technique that involves scraping tartar (caused by bacterial plaque build-up) off the teeth, both above and below the gum line
- root planing, another deep-cleaning technique in which the dentist or hygienist removes areas on the tooth root that are more likely to attract bacteria
- laser removal of bacterial plaque and tartar
- medicines to reduce the size of the pockets (the spaces where the gum tissue has started separating from the teeth)
- surgery to clean out pockets (called flap surgery)
- surgery to encourage bone growth and gum tissue regeneration (called bone and tissue grafting)
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.