What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is a condition that occurs when the tissues supporting the teeth become inflamed from bacterial infection. Gradual buildup of bacteria over time leads to gum disease, which can cause teeth to shift, and even fall out if left untreated. Gum disease is one of the main causes for tooth loss in adults.
What is the Cause of Periodontal Disease?
A layer of bacteria, called plaque, grow on the surfaces of our teeth. These bacteria can proliferate in pockets and spaces in the gums and cause inflammation. This inflammation, called gingivitis, is the precursor to periodontal disease, which is when the bacterial infection begins to affect the anchoring of teeth. In severe periodontal disease, the ligaments are so weakened that teeth become mobile.
Periodontal disease can be a result of poor hygiene; regular flossing and brushing, as well as frequent professional cleanings, keep bacteria levels low, and gums healthy. Crooked or misaligned teeth also can contribute to periodontal disease, as they are more difficult to clean. Additionally, smoking and other tobacco use cause gum disease. Some patients simply have a genetic predisposition to gum disease, and may need more frequent cleanings and close monitoring of their periodontal health.
What are the Symptoms of Periodontal Disease?
The symptoms of periodontal disease include:
- Bleeding gums, inflammation, or red swollen gums.
- Receding gums or teeth appearing longer than normal.
How do you treat periodontal disease?
For periodontal disease, we most often recommend scaling and root planing, commonly called deep cleaning. During this procedure, the patient is numbed, and the hygienist removes plaque and tartar from below the gums to clear up the infection. This procedure takes place over two 90-minute appointments, one for each side of the mouth. About three months after the second deep cleaning appointment, the hygienist will perform a cleaning and check the progress to see if the infection has subsided (called periodontal maintenance).
If the infection is especially severe, the gums will begin to separate from the teeth, forming ‘pockets’. In places where the pockets are particularly large, Dr. Barrientos may recommend placing a topical antibiotic to fight the infection, so the gums can reattach to the tooth.
Finally, flossing and brushing frequently will help prevent plaque buildup, and regular visits for professional cleanings will maintain healthy gums and teeth.