The term “periodontal” means “around the tooth.” Therefore, periodontal disease affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Gum, or periodontal, disease can cause inflammation, tooth loss and bone damage. The infection starts when the gums become inflamed due to bacteria in plaque, a sticky, colorless film that forms on your teeth.
Periodontal disease comes in many forms. Gingivitis is perhaps the mildest form of gum disease. While the gums become red, swollen and bleed easily, there is very little to no discomfort associated at this stage of the disease. Through a good oral hygiene regimen and treatment from your dentist, the results of gingivitis can be reversed.
Periodontitis is another form of periodontal disease and can be aggressive or chronic. Aggressive periodontitis displays rapid bone destruction and attachment loss in clinically healthy patients. Chronic periodontitis is one of the most common forms of periodontal disease and is frequently seen in adults. The stages progress slowly and can be recognized by gum recession and pocket formation.
Even when periodontal disease is in a fairly advanced stage, it is possible to improve or even reverse the condition with non-surgical procedures. Depending on the type of disease and its severity, one of these approaches may be suggested by your doctor.
This process can be done above or below the gum line and involves the scraping and removal of plaque and calculus (tartar) from the tooth. Scaling done at regular teeth cleanings usually involves the crown of the tooth. However, in more extreme circumstances, it is necessary to go further below the gum line to thoroughly remove disease-causing bacteria and its by-products on the root surface. In very advanced cases, flap surgery or gingivectomy may be necessary to allow the doctor free access to the infected tooth root.
After the thorough cleaning of the tooth surface has been completed above and below the gum line, the root of the tooth undergoes a process called planing. This is a process of smoothing the root of the tooth so that any remaining tartar is removed. This also serves two other purposes: it clears away any rough areas that bacteria below the gum line thrive in, and it makes it much easier for the gingival (gum) tissue to re-attach itself to the tooth, effectively reducing the size of the pockets that the plaque and bacteria hide in. This re-growth of tissue is key in stopping a recurrence of gum disease and happens very quickly once the calculus has been removed.
With either of these procedures, your periodontist may prescribe you either local or systemic antibiotics and a specially indicated mouth rinse.