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Gum Disease FAQ

What is gum disease?

Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gum tissue, ligaments, and bone around the teeth. It causes weakening and ultimate destruction of these tissues which protect and support the teeth and hold them in place. Pyorrhea is an older name for this disease.

How does periodontal disease start?

It starts with bacteria or dental plaque which leads to gum inflammation. If the problem is not corrected the inflammation gradually extends below the gum line. The fibers connecting each tooth to its bony socket then become affected. As time goes on, the bone will also become involved and deteriorate as the infection extends deeper into the fiber area.

What causes periodontal disease?

Plaque, simply defined, is an organized colony of bacteria which causes inflammation and ultimately the breakdown of the gum tissue and bone. Of course, there are other systemic disease factors which contribute to periodontal breakdown. Examples are missing teeth, food impactions, poor occlusion, etc. Bacterial plaque, however, is the primary cause of periodontal disease.

Can gum disease be controlled?

Yes, except in the most advanced cases or where the patient refuses to accept responsibility for proper home care.

“But, Doctor, I brush my teeth all the time!”

We do not wish to imply that patients do not brush. But brushing cleans only the cheek, tongue, and biting surfaces of the teeth.

Gum disease starts and does its greatest damage between the teeth. How the patient cleans is most important particularly in the between the teeth areas where the toothbrush cannot reach.

What, exactly, is plaque?

Plaque is a sticky, transparent substance which clings to the teeth. Once removed, it reforms again in 24 hours. In this substance live an enormous number of micro-organisms. Because most of the bacteria live in protected areas which are inaccessible to conventional toothbrushing, they pose a constant threat to the teeth and gum tissue.

As the bacterial elements organize to form plaque (every 24 hours) they produce toxic acids which can ultimately destroy the holding fibers and the supporting bone.

What are the symptoms of periodontal disease?

Bleeding and/or swollen gums.
Excessive formation of calculus or tarter deposits.
Drifting or shifting of any teeth–including spreading of the front teeth.
Loosening of any teeth.
Swelling and/or soreness in the gingival (gum) area, possibly indicating the presence of an abscess.
Bad odor or bad taste.

Why do teeth become loose?

We could compare a tooth to a fence post. If two-thirds of the fence post is in the ground, it is solid. But if erosion occurs and a great deal of the support is lost, leaving only one-quarter of the post remaining in the ground, it is no longer solid. It becomes loose. When a tooth loses its support, it, too, becomes loose.

Is there a simple comparison to help me understand more about the nature of periodontal disease; more specifically, how the gum crevice deepens to form the periodontal pocket?

Yes. Visualize the neck of the tooth encircled with a tight turtleneck sweater which represents the gingival (gum) tissue. The threads in the sweater could be compared to the tough elastic fibers which lace through the tissue. Healthy tissue is so tight that bacterial action cannot affect it.

However, if bacterial plaque is allowed to accumulate in the crevice area (where the gum tissue meets the tooth), the bacterial toxins slowly destroy the elasticity of the fibers. Then the bacteria and toxins can slip into the deeper fiber areas. Here they find a favorable environment where they can multiply to form more colonies and more toxins. This would be similar to the turtleneck sweater being extremely stretched and loose. Now the deepest fibers and the supporting bone receive the brunt of the bacterial attack and the pocket continues to deepen. If a pocket is 5 mm or deeper research has shown that it is impossible to clean to the bottom of the pocket with home care. This is the nature of periodontal disease.

Can a dentist actually measure the amount of destruction of gum disease?

Yes, to a great degree. We use an instrument called a periodontal probe to measure the depth of the crevice; i.e., the space between the tooth and the gum tissue. With this instrument we can actually survey the amount of bone destruction. The probe is marked in millimeter increments. 0-3 mm is generally healthy. 4mm is border line and 5mm or greater is an area of periodontal concern and treatment is indicated.

Is periodontal disease inherited?

No. We feel, however, that there may be an inheritable weakness; i.e., the tendency toward heavier plaque formation, but the individual who maintains a totally clean mouth can control virtually all periodontal disease–regardless of inheritable weakness.

At what age is it most prevalent?

Usually, the onset of periodontal disease takes place at about 35 years of age, although it can occur in our teen years or later in life. Most dentists agree that 75% of the population over 35 is afflicted to some degree.

How is periodontal disease treated?

The treatment usually consists of three important phrases:

The learning phase.All periodontal patients must learn the facts regarding the destructive power of this disease process and its effect in the mouth.

The control phase.The problems of the existing disease must be controlled. Treatment may include the correction of gum and bone defects, as well as correction of malocclusion problems and the replacement of missing teeth.

The preventive phase. Once the disease process is under control, with as many problems eliminated as possible, it is the responsibility of the patient to seek regular preventive treatment. Of course, effective personal oral hygiene must be maintained at all times.

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  • Robin BergRobin Berg

    I felt well cared for by the Periodontal Associates team whether for my consultation visit, my tooth extraction or the two follow up visits. They are kind, professional, timely, and Dr. Heller is clearly an expert in his field. He had two potential plans of care for my procedure- one was tooth removal if absolutely necessary and the second to potentially save my tooth. Unfortunately the area was in bad condition so he was able to safely do the extraction and I feel SO much better (immediately). All points of contact at their office make you feel welcome, understood and well cared for. I'll be going back for periodic cleanings/ maintenance/ prevention for sure.

  • phil johnsonphil johnson

    Had a graft done by Dr Verseman (probably misspelled) He was understanding and compassionate. The graft was successful and the after care was great. I just started doing regular cleanings here and am happy to be cleaned by Alison. Thanks Guys!!!

  • Barbara SalesBarbara Sales

    I highly recommend Dr. Heller and everyone associated with Periodontal Associates. From the moment I walked in, through the entire several month process of receiving a dental implant, I was made to feel totally comfortable. As a somewhat nervous patient, this was so important to me! Every step of the process was explained to me and my questions were welcomed and answered. Dr. Heller is very personable, extremely competent, and thoughtful. I’m so grateful that I was referred to him, and I’m very happy with my implant.

  • Brian HurstBrian Hurst

    I had three grafts here and they did an fantastic job. Super informative on the procedure prior took good care that I was not in any pain and were great with the follow up and post op care. I would highly recommend them!!!

  • Carly KosikCarly Kosik

    The staff here is outstanding, both friendly and adept. I had a great experience and would highly recommend them to family and friends.

  • Melissa H.Melissa H.

    Let's be honest here - there is nothing fun about having gum surgery. However, the staff and Dr. Heller were as good as it gets with regard to my treatment....

  • Lynne K.Lynne K.

    I've been seen by Dr Beckmann since he joined the practice. I know he and his staff truly care about their patients and their dental health. Very...

  • Carol ThurstinCarol Thurstin

    I have known Dr Versman and Dr Heller for 30 years. I don’t need periodontal treatment at this time but with the recent retirement of my General dentist, I was in search of a new dentist for my routine cleaning and dental health. Dr Heller suggested I visit Periodontal Assoc for my cleanings and I can say I feel like I got the best cleaning ever. My hygienist examined my neck and lymph nodes, which was never done by my previous dentist. I give this practice 5 stars.

  • Karen Pelling LevineKaren Pelling Levine

    Dr. Doug Heller is one of three of the doctors that make up the driving force in my efforts to save my teeth and my overall health. What started out as one broken tooth led to the possibility of my losing all of my teeth to gum disease. Panicked, I reached for a second opinion and found Dr. Heller, along with my regular Dentist & Orthodontist. I am now the proud owner of only 5 implants, as opposed to full upper and lower implants OR full dentures. Though dental procedures are hardly fun, Dr. Heller and his staff have made it a smooth process, from financial to face-changing....I couldn't be happier. 😁 You be the judge. My profile pic, there on the left, is a fine example of their handiwork.
    Double Bonus: Doorbell just rang. Beautiful plant has just arrived to cheer me in my recovery....Thank you, Dr. Heller and your wonderful Staff!

  • Jerome GilmerJerome Gilmer

    I was sent to Dr. Beckman on a referral from my dentist because of a slightly loose tooth. Dr. Beckman evaluated the situation and recommended a gum graft and bite adjustment. It is now six weeks since the procedure, and while the recovery was not painless, it was pretty much exactly as he said it would be. Upon evaluation earlier this week it was clear that the procedure was successful.

    Dr. Beckman and the staff were very nice, supportive and professional and I would highly recommend this practice to anyone needing this kind of help.

  • Tori Horton HamillTori Horton Hamill

    Dr Beckman performed a gum graft. I was nervous, but he explained everything clearly and thoroughly. The staff were very accommodating when I had to reschedule and they keep the schedule flowing on time so I was not sitting and waiting beyond the appointment time. The only downside was having to ask multiple times about the cost and what my calculated out of pocket would be. Would definitely recommend.

  • Ashley AndersonAshley Anderson

    5 stars! Dr. Beckman and the entire office staff provide superior customer service and care. I recently had a gum graft performed and from the very first meeting I felt at ease. Dr. Beckman took his time explaining the procedure and patiently answered any questions I had. On the day of the procedure they go the extra mile to make sure you are comfortable- they use top of the line medical treatment for an effective procedure and speedy recovery. The team was very supportive and available through the entire process and even calls to check on you post procedure. I highly recommend Dr. Beckman and his team!

  • Doris BinderDoris Binder

    I needed to get some implants and Dr. Heller was recommended. Thankfully, he was absolutely wonderful. I wasn't sure what to expect, but he explained everything that needed be done and the procedure began. Now it's not an over night process, but the weeks after each step was a piece of cake. I am so happy with my implants. I had to have a tooth pulled a few weeks ago, and I don't know how he does it, but I had zero pain, no complications and I needed no pain Meds. The staff is so friendly and I highly recommend them.

  • Kenneth McCallKenneth McCall
  • Jan BernsteinJan Bernstein

    Dr. Beckman and the staff couldn't have been nicer or more professional. I highly recommend the practice to anyone in need of a periodontist.

  • Chelsy LaForceChelsy LaForce

    Dr. Heller and the rest of the team is absolutely amazing. They are super helpful through the entire process and I knew I was in great hands. Thank you so much!

  • Terry Lavitt SeiverTerry Lavitt Seiver
  • Aprille Tripler MooreAprille Tripler Moore

    Dr. Beckman and the entire staff at Periodontal Associates are amazing! Dr. Beckman performed a gum graft procedure on me and to my surprise and relief I felt no pain. Not during the procedure or post op. The entire experience from consult through my last follow up appointment was topnotch.

  • Terry SandahlTerry Sandahl

    I have been a patient of first Dr. Versman and then Dr. Heller for over 20 years. This is an amazing periodontal group! I feel so comfortable having them take care of my needs~and there have been many! Dr. Heller is so easy going and I never feel like whatever he does will fail. They have a great support staff too! All their assistants are competent and friendly, and my hygienist Michelle is the best! Love these guys and wouldn't think of going anywhere else!

  • Holly DeLuise BodineHolly DeLuise Bodine

    I have some complicated dental issues but Dr. Heller and his team have handled them very well, and as painlessly as is possible. Dr. Heller explains things very thoroughly!

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