When gingivitis is left untreated, it can advance into periodontal disease. Over time plaque can harden and can spread under the gum line. Hardened plaque or calculus is difficult to remove by regular toothbrushing methods. The bacterial toxins released from plaque and tartar cause an irritation and infection of the gums. This infection causes destruction of the bone that supports the teeth. The gum tissue also pulls away from the teeth creating a space between the gums and teeth, pockets, where tartar accumulates. As the disease progresses, these pockets can deepen and more supportive bone is destroyed. In advanced disease, these teeth are eventually lost due to lack of adequate bone and tissue support.
The degree of periodontal disease is assessed by a thorough periodontal examination with the use of xrays and periodontal charting. Periodontal charting involves using a periodontal probe to measure the depth of the periodontal pocket. The greater the depth of the pocket, the more difficult it is to properly maintain and clean.
Symptoms of gum disease
- bad breath that will not go away
- bleeding gums: while brushing or flossing
- red, swollen or painful gums
- pus forming around gums
- loose teeth
- a change in bite or the way teeth fit together
- gums pulling away from teeth
- teeth appearing longer as time progresses
- roots of teeth beginning to show
Risk Factors of Periodontal Disease
- Oral hygiene habits
- Tooth loss
- Teeth grinding, clenching
- Tooth position or crowded teeth
- Other systemic diseases
While periodontal disease is largely preventable, if left untreated, it can lead to eventual tooth loss. All treatments for periodontal disease are done with the hope of preventing further bone and tooth loss.
How is periodontal disease treated?
- The least invasive and most-cost effective way to treat periodontal disease is non-surgical treatment by scaling and root-planing. Scaling is careful removal of plaque and tartar from the surfaces of teeth. Planing involves smoothing the the root surfaces to remove toxins and allow for reattachment of gum tissues.
- A patient is usually numbed for this procedure to allow for patient comfort.
- Sometimes, an adjunct is used in the form of a localized topical antibiotics, such as Arestin, in deeper pockets.
- Most patients require ongoing maintenance at approximately 3 month intervals.
- Treatment cannot make bone grow back, but the goal is to have reattachment of the gum tissues to the tooth.
- If the gum tissue does not respond to non-surgical approaches, more advanced treatment such as referral to a periodontist for surgical or laser treatment may be indicated.
Can a regular cleaning treat periodontal disease?
A regular cleaning is a procedure to help prevent periodontal disease. It is for “healthy” gums. Scaling and root planing is gum infection therapy to treat periodontal disease.
Can I take an antibiotic to treat my gum disease?
While gum disease is a bacterial infection, it is treated by a physical removal of the diseased plaque, calculus and toxins. Antibiotics are used as an adjunct or supplement to therapy only. Antibiotics alone will not treat gum disease.