Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is generally painless, so you may not even be aware that you have this condition! There are three stages of periodontal disease: Gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis. The main cause of periodontal disease is plaque buildup below the gum line. Plaque is a sticky, colorless film that constantly builds up on the teeth from daily eating and drinking. If this plaque is not regularly removed from your teeth with daily brushing and flossing, as well as regular dental cleanings, it will harden into a form called calculus (tartar) that cannot be removed without the assistance of a dental professional. Periodontal disease is very serious and may result in tooth loss. As the gum disease progresses, it leads to bone loss due to persistent infection being present. It may also contribute to the development of heart disease and increase your risk of stroke.
Your first visit to our office will include a thorough dental exam, which includes checking for the following symptoms:
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Gums that bleed while brushing or flossing
- Bad breath or a persistent bad taste
- Infection between your teeth
- Gums that recede or shrink away from the teeth
To diagnose periodontal disease, we will review your complete medical history with you. We will discuss any medications you are taking and any medical conditions you may have that might affect your periodontal health. We will perform a thorough evaluation of the gum tissue, in which a measuring instrument will be placed between the teeth and gums to determine the depth of your periodontal pockets. A three millimeter pocket or less is a healthy reading. More than this may be a sign of disease.
Treating periodontal disease includes a process called scaling and root planning, which is a type of professional cleaning that removes plaque and tartar from the teeth and smoothes the root surfaces. An injectable form of antibiotics may be placed between the teeth and gum tissue if necessary. This will reduce infection and speed the healing of the tissue. A local anesthetic is typically used to make the procedure more comfortable. This treatment is typically broken into multiple visits. Following scaling and root planing, professional cleanings will be recommended every three to four months. Regular cleanings and good home care should slow or stop the progression of the disease.