If you have been told you have periodontal (gum) disease, you’re not alone. Many adults in the U.S. currently have some form of the disease. Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the worst cases, teeth are lost.
Whether your gum disease is stopped, slowed, or gets worse depends a great deal on how well you care for your teeth and gums every day, from this point forward. Our mouths are full of bacteria. These bacteria constantly form a sticky, colorless “plaque” on teeth. Brushing and flossing helps to get rid of plaque. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form “tartar” that brushing doesn’t clean. Only a professional cleaning with one of our dental hygienists can remove tartar.
The longer plaque and tartar are on your teeth, the more harmful is becomes. The bacteria causes inflammation of the gums that is called “gingivitis.” Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease. It causes the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene and is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care. This form of gum disease does not include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to “periodontitis”; which means “inflammation around the tooth.” Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.
One of our dental hygienists removes the plaque through a deep-cleaning method called scaling and root planning. Scaling means scraping off the tartar from above and below the gum line. Root planing gets rid of rough spots on the tooth root where the germs gather, and helps remove bacteria that contribute to the disease. Periodontal diseases, including gingivitis and periodontitis, are serious infections that can lead to tooth loss if left untreated.