Periodontal or gum disease is one of the most common diseases affecting Americans today. This inflammatory disease can range from mild gingivitis to advanced periodontitis. If left untreated it can lead to bone and tooth loss.
Gum disease is caused by bacteria that creates a tooth-colored film called plaque. Eventually plaque may harden creating tarter, which can form above and below the gum tissue. Plaque and tarter react with the sugars and starches found in the diet to create an acid, irritating the vulnerable soft tissue. As the tissue becomes infected, gums pull away from the teeth creating a pocket of bacteria. This can lead to further tissue damage and bone loss around the teeth.
You may have periodontal disease with little or no symptoms. Some of the symptoms that are associated with periodontal infection include: bleeding when flossing or brushing, red, swollen, or tender gums, persistent bad breath, loose or shifting teeth, and pain or sensitivity.
A thorough examination, including x-rays, is necessary to diagnose periodontal disease. In order to determine the extent of the damage or to catch problems early, a special instrument called a periodontal probe will be used to measure the depth of the pocket between the tooth and the gums. If it is determined that you have active periodontal infection, a treatment plans will be devised in order to treat the problem.
Scaling and root planing is the best non-surgical treatment once a patient is diagnosed with periodontitis. This involves removing the plaque and tarter from the teeth and smoothing the root surfaces. This procedure is generally painless, as local anesthetic is often administered to eliminate any discomfort. Often times antibacterial therapy is also recommended. This includes oral medication, topically applied antibiotics, and rinses to help fight bacteria. In certain cases, a referral to a specialist may be indicated.