Periodontal disease attacks the gums and the bone that support the teeth. It starts when plaque, a sticky film of food, bacteria, and saliva, isn’t removed. Inadequate removal allows it to turn into tartar, or calculus. The longer that’s allowed to stay, the redder and more swollen the gums get, and they may even bleed. This is periodontal disease, and it can destroy the gums and bone.
Would you believe four out of five people have periodontal disease? Most don’t even know it, because the early stages can be free of symptoms. It’s the number one reason for tooth loss.
If that’s not enough to convince you consider this: Research has found a link between periodontal disease and other diseases such as stroke, bacterial pneumonia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and increased risk during pregnancy. The oral health/body health connection has never been so direct. The risks of periodontal disease also climb with smoking.
So how do you prevent it? Keep up with the good oral hygiene (regular brushing and flossing), eat a balanced diet, and don’t skip your regular dental visits.
Signs and symptoms of periodontal disease:
- Bleeding gums – Even vigorous brushing or using dental floss should never cause bleeding.
- Loose teeth – These are usually caused by bone loss or weak fibers between tooth and bone.
- New spacing between teeth
- Persistent bad breath (due to bacteria)
- Pus around the teeth and gums (infection)
- Receding gums
- Red and puffy gums
- Tenderness or Discomfort
In every dental checkup, the doctor and hygienist will examine your teeth and gums for signs of periodontal disease.
There are various levels of treatment for periodontal disease. Which one your condition requires will be determined after evaluation by your dentist and hygienist. When the pockets between teeth and gums fill with bacteria, plaque, and tartar, the resulting irritation can damage gums and bone.
In early stages (gingivitis), with no damage occurring, two to three cleanings are often sufficient to reverse the process. To maintain the results, you’ll be given education to improve your daily hygiene, and regular dental cleanings will be required.
Once damage has occurred, scaling and root planing become necessary. We’ll numb one quarter of your mouth in each session. Then scaling removes accumulated tartar, plaque, and toxins above and below the gum line, and planing smoothes rough spots on the root surfaces. After that, gum tissue is able to heal and pockets can shrink. Advanced levels of infection may require medication, medicated mouth rinse, and/or a special toothbrush.
Having good hygiene habits at home helps control the accumulation of plaque, but it only takes 24 hours for it to turn to tartar, and some areas are too difficult to get to on your own. Once you’ve completed initial periodontal treatment, visits for special cleanings should occur three to four times a year. We’ll be able to remove those hard-to-get collections of plaque and tartar, and check the pockets to make sure they remain clean and healthy.