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.
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.
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.
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.