Periodontal disease is one of the most common preventable diseases in the country. It is a disease that is exacerbated by poor oral hygiene, but there is also a hereditary element to it. Where parents or grandparents have had periodontal issues, we find patients tend to be likely to inherit it.
Back in the old days, people used to say it was just part of getting older. The phrase ‘getting long in the tooth’ was used to describe old age, although it actually described periodontal disease. These days it’s very different. Our mentality is that you can prevent it or bring it under control. I’m a big believer in combatting periodontal disease with frequent monitoring.
Treatment of periodontal disease
I usually get my perio patients to come in and see me every three months to make sure it doesn’t get worse. Once a year I will do a perio chart, which is designed to take measurements of the pockets of the gums caused by periodontal disease. We can track and control the disease that way.
I follow the chart up every year so we can keep tabs on it, to see whether it’s stabilising or getting worse. If it’s stable, there will be no bleeding and the pocketing will remain the same. I find this to be quite successful, and if the patient complies with the regular appointments and need to monitor the disease frequently, periodontal disease can be brought under control.
What happens if you ignore it?
But there are always some patients who don’t have the time for regular check-ups. They might be under a lot of stress, or really busy, or just avoidant. These patients suffer in the long-term. It’s like anything you neglect. You know you’re going to suffer if you continue to neglect it. I don’t recommend ignoring the symptoms of periodontal disease.
It is sometimes a challenge finding a way to enforce a perio regime. I do it by building relationships with patients and working around their lives. Once you know what their lifestyle is like, you can find a way to set up a treatment plan and fix their periodontal disease.
For example, I tell the busy mums—whom I understand, because I am one of them—that they need to look after themselves before they can look after anyone else.
The signs of periodontal disease
The warning signs for periodontal disease are pretty simple: bleeding or puffy gums, or teeth that are moving around should be a red alert. I don’t mean the sort of bleeding you might occasionally experience when you’re brushing your teeth, because with teeth brushing it could be that you’re brushing too hard and traumatising your gums. That said, it could also be a sign of periodontal disease.
If you find your gums are bleeding when you’re biting into an apple or at other times, this is a clear warning sign that things may not be right in your mouth. Wobbly teeth are another sign of periodontal disease.
These things do happen from time to time, but if you are noticing these symptoms regularly, it might be time to call the dentist.