Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is a leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Mainly caused by plaque bacteria, it is usually painless in the early stages. Regular dental visits are essential to maintain healthy gums.
The earliest stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. Advanced periodontal disease is a more serious condition with warning signs like: Persistent bad taste, bad breath, bleeding gums (permanent (adult) teeth that are loose or separating or changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.
Periodontal disease has many forms and stages. Most common are:
This is the earliest stage of gum disease, often characterized by bleeding, swelling and redness of the gums. Sometimes the gums are tender but not always. Plaque removal in the way of brushing and flossing will help reduce bleeding and inflammation for mild gingivitis.
This is the more advanced stage of gum disease involving bone and ligaments surrounding the teeth. If left untreated, it can damage the supporting tissues. Your gum separates from the tooth and the bone level deteriorates.
If left untreated, there may be further progression of periodontitis with major loss of bone support. Your gums recede farther. Pus may develop, bone loss continues and your teeth may loosen or fall out.
Your dentist or dental hygienist will examine you for periodontal disease during each routine check-up. A periodontal probe will be used to determine if there is any breakdown in the gum tissue attachment of if “pockets” have developed between your gums and teeth.
Treatment will depend upon the type of periodontal disease and how far the condition has progressed. Treatment may include:
• Scaling (scraping) to remove hard deposits above and below the gum line.
• Root planing to smooth rough root surfaces so the gums can heal. Local anesthesia (dental freezing) may be used.
• Oral irrigation may be required. This directs liquids below the gum line to flush out toxins and germs to help restore the gums to health.
These procedures can be completed by a dentist or dental hygienist.
If deep “pockets” are found and bone has been destroyed your dentist may recommend periodontal surgery. You may be referred to a specialist called a periodontist who has extensive training in this regard.
A proper program of brushing, flossing and regular professional cleaning will help fight plaque and tartar accumulation and gum disease and help you keep your teeth for a lifetime.