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Periodontal Disease

What is it?

Example of healthy gum structure on the left versus gum structure with periodontal disease on the right

Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place. It’s typically caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow plaque—a sticky film of bacteria—to build up on the teeth and harden. Initially, the gums become red and inflamed, known as gingivitis. Left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease, a more serious condition that is not as easily reversed. In advanced stages, periodontal disease can lead to loss of jaw bone; sore, bleeding gums; painful chewing problems; and even tooth loss.

What are the risk factors?

  1. Smoking
  2. Diabetes
  3. Ineffective oral hygiene
  4. Stress
  5. Heredity
  6. Crooked teeth
  7. Poorly fitting dental work
  8. Certain medications, especially in combination, with dry mouth
  9. Certain female hormonal changes, for example pregnancy

How is it treated?

Your first step in treating periodontitis is a conservative, nonsurgical treatment called scaling and root planing, sometimes called a deep cleaning. By scraping and removing the plaque and tartar off of your teeth and root surfaces, and then smoothing away any roughness on the roots, helps to prevent bacteria from gathering again. This proceedure may take more than one visit and a local anesthetic can be used to prevent any discomfort. After this process, the gums will heal and reattach themselves to the healthy, clean surfaces of the teeth. Within a few weeks, your dentist will evaluate your healing and decide if further treatment is necessary.

If you need additional treatment, there are a variety of ways to proceed. Sometimes additional deep cleaning is required. We often use local antibiotics to help kill active infection. And there are multiple surgical approaches available.

What is periodontal maintenance?

Meticulous homecare is the key to keeping periodontal disease from progressing. Because personal oral care is a big part of any periodontal treatment plan, we make sure you have the right tools and techniques at home. We may recommend specialized items for your teeth, gums, and tongue.

We will also recommend keeping a close eye on your periodontal health with more frequent checkups and cleaning appointments. When dealing with periodontal disease, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.