What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria that live in soft plaque. Plaque is a sticky film that occurs naturally after you eat, and if it is not removed within 48 hours through brushing and flossing your teeth- the plaque will harden into calculus, which is also known as tartar. Periodontal disease is a significant oral health concern because plaque and calculus buildup and causes inflammation of the gums. In the early stages, this inflammation is called gingivitis and the symptoms of bleeding and "puffy gums" are reversible. Prolonged periods of inflammation, untreated bacteria, and subsequent dental pocketing cause permanent damage to the supporting bone. This more advanced form of gingivitis is called periodontitis. Symptoms of periodontitis can include breakdown of the connective structures that hold teeth in place, bone loss, infection in the gums, and loose teeth. It’s essential that we begin treating periodontal disease in early stages to ensure a healthy smile and prevent permanent bone damage.
A person’s genetic composition often influences the severity of periodontal disease, how quickly calculus is accumulated, and how your body reacts to the presence of bacteria. We can’t control our genetics. We can control the amount of bacteria by eating healthy foods, daily oral home care, and professional cleanings by a dental hygienist. Once plaque has hardened into calculus- it mineralizes to the tooth and can no longer be removed at home. The specialized tools used in a dental office are necessary to clean the bacterial deposits. While large cavities and nerve infections hurt- periodontal disease is relatively painless which is why gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Many people do not know they have gum disease because they are not in pain.
Maintaining Gum Health
The easiest way to ensure gums are healthy is to prevent oral health problems by brushing and flossing properly each day and visiting our office at least twice a year. Our goal is always to help patients maintain their healthy smile, but if you do suffer from periodontal disease, we are here to help you stabilize your gum tissue and keep you educated on the latest treatment advancements.
For patients suffering from mild gingivitis, more frequent professional teeth cleanings in our office and improved homeware may be adequate to fully renew oral health. Patients with more severe periodontitis may be in need of advanced periodontal therapies in addition to more frequent teeth cleaning. These more advanced therapies include:
- Scaling and root planning- the systematic removal of plaque and calculus buildup at and below the gum line, including the roots of the teeth (during this procedure, patients are anesthetized so the treatment is pain free!)
- Antibiotic therapy – oral or topical antibiotics may be prescribed to reduce the levels of residual bacteria and prevent additional bone loss
- a referral to a periodontist, or gum specialist, if necessary