Periodontal Disease: the Basics

At Loop Perio, we’ve learned that today, most Americans understand the importance of taking care of their teeth. As a rule, people realize they need to brush, floss, get regular cleanings and checkups (twice a year or more often if the dentist recommends it), and have problems like cavities and cracked or broken teeth attended to by a professional.

But not everyone understands the importance of preventing periodontal disease, commonly called gum disease, or, if it does develop, obtaining effective periodontal treatment. Yet this is equally important.

Periodontal disease is a term referring to infections in the gum tissue. These can vary in severity, and effective gum disease treatment can be more or less difficult, lengthy, and involved. Sadly, gum disease is relatively common.

One of the commoner forms of periodontal disease is gingivitis. You can see it as an early warning sign that, without effective intervention (which, fortunately, is usually fairly easy to provide), more serious gum disease is likely on its way.

Periodontitis is the more serious condition. It’s an inflammatory condition that attacks the tissues that support the teeth and often results in pocketing (when harmful bacteria have invaded below the gum line), recession (gums drawing back from the teeth), damage to gum tissue and the bone beneath, loose teeth, and even tooth loss.

What Causes Periodontal Disease?

In a nutshell, bacteria cause gum disease. Everyone’s mouth is full of them, and they constantly combine with mucus and other particles to form a sticky, colorless coating called plaque on the surfaces of teeth. Over time, plaque hardens into tartar. Tartar allows harmful bacteria to flourish and attack the gums.

Periodontal Disease Prevention

Because it’s plaque that ultimately results in gum disease, the key to preventing gum disease is to keep it from accumulating and turning into tartar. Basically, you do this by adhering to the same good daily oral hygiene practices that protect the teeth.

Brush and floss regularly. Be sure to brush for at least two minutes every time and clean every tooth surface. Also, massage your gums to increase blood circulation.

A dentist can advise you on what kind of toothbrush will work best for you and teach you proper flossing technique. And you should be seeing your dentist for regular visits.

There’s a chance some tartar will accumulate despite your best efforts, and only a professional cleaning can remove tartar. Your dentist will also checks for early signs of gum disease and provide effective gum disease treatment when it’s still simple and less expensive. In addition to a thorough visual inspection, dentists and their assistants measure the pockets around the teeth to check for periodontal disease.

Symptoms of Periodontal Disease

In the early stage, it’s possible for gum disease to develop without any symptoms noticeable to the person who’s developing it, which again points up the importance of regular professional checkups. But you could notice red or swollen gums, bleeding when you brush your teeth, sensitive gums, receding gums, bad breath, a persistent bad taste inside the mouth, or pus at the gum line. If you do, it’s a good idea to consult a dentist without delay.

Treatment of Periodontal Disease

The kinds of gum disease treatment necessary to reverse the condition vary according to its progression and severity. This, again, is one reason you should get regular checkups: to catch periodontal disease early. If your dentist catches gingivitis early, it might only take more frequent professional cleanings, perhaps every three or four months, to clear it up.

If gingivitis has been permitted to progress into periodontitis, however, periodontal disease treatment become considerably more involved. You might need one or more of the following:

  • Root planing and scaling. This deep-cleaning procedure removes tartar and plaque that have gotten under the gum line. Your dentist may administer a local anesthetic to keep it from being uncomfortable.
  • Gum surgery. Dentists use this gum disease treatment to repair the damage resulting from infection. Varieties of gum surgery include the removal of infected tissue (gingivectomy), the restoration of damaged gums through gum grafting, and flap procedures that remove bacteria from under the gum line and scale the roots of teeth where there are pockets deeper than five millimeters.
  • Regenerative treatments. These procedures reverse bone and tissue damage. The periodontist opens the gum tissue to remove infection underneath it and then places a bone graft, membranes (filters), or tissue-stimulating proteins to produce regrowth.

The takeaway here is that the longer you allow periodontal disease to go untreated, the more invasive, expensive, and inconvenient gum disease treatment is likely to be. So if you’re experiencing any symptoms of periodontal disease or it’s just been a while since your last dental appointment, we encourage you to call Loop Perio at (312) 782-4068 and schedule an appointment.