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The word periodontal literally means "around the tooth." Periodontal diseases, also called gum diseases, are serious bacterial infections that destroy the gums and the surrounding tissues of the mouth. Dental caries, or cavities, in the tooth affect only the tooth. Periodontal disease affects the bones around the tooth, the gums, the coverings of the roots of the teeth, and the membrane of the tooth. A dentist specializing in periodontal disease is called a periodontist.
If the inflammation is left untreated, the disease will continue and the underlying bones around the teeth will dissolve and will no longer be able to hold the teeth in place.
As with many other oral health diseases, bacteria and plaque build-up is often the culprit. In fact, plaque build-up is the leading cause of gum disease. Other potential causes of gum disease include the following:
The following are the most common symptoms of gum disease. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of gum disease may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Consult your child's dentist or other oral health specialist for a diagnosis.
Periodontal disease is usually diagnosed based on a complete history and physical examination of your child and your child's mouth. Your child's physician will probably refer the child to a dentist for complete evaluation and treatment. At the dentist, x-rays (a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film) of the teeth may be taken to help in the diagnosis and treatment of the problem.
The different types of periodontal disease are often classified by the stage the disease has advanced to at the time of evaluation, including:
Treatment by your child's dentist and proper, consistent care at home help to resolve the problems associated with gingivitis. If the gingivitis is not treated, it may lead to periodontitis.
Prompt medical attention is necessary to prevent further erosion and damage.
Specific treatment for periodontal disease will be determined by your child's dentist based on:
Treatment may include any, or a combination of, the following:
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