Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection that attacks the structures surrounding the teeth, but not the teeth themselves. It starts when food debris and bacteria form a sticky film over the teeth called plaque; if not removed from the teeth, plaque can irritate and inflame the gum tissue.
How Gum Disease Progresses
In the early stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis, the infection may cause bleeding and tender or swollen gums. Sometimes gum disease goes undetected because the symptoms are mild.
Left untreated, gingivitis can advance into periodontitis. At this stage, the infection has spread to the teeth, bones and tissue that keeps the teeth in place. Chronic bad breath can occur. The gum tissue can start to recess or pull away from the teeth, creating what are known as periodontal pockets. The deeper the pockets, the worse the disease. These pockets are great places for bacteria to accumulate and wreak more havoc on the bones and tissue. As the gum tissue gradually deteriorates, the teeth can become loose and even fall out.
If you are experiencing any signs of gum disease or other concerning symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with Dr. Porter right away. Catching and treating gum disease early is critical as research has uncovered a link between gum disease and stroke, heart disease, diabetes and other serious health conditions.
How Is Gum Disease Treated?
Usually the first step of treating early-stage gum disease involves a professional cleaning called scaling and root planing. During the cleaning, the dental team cleans the teeth thoroughly, removing plaque and hardened plaque called tartar. This includes plaque and tartar inside any periodontal pockets. The root surfaces of the teeth are smoothed, which helps the inflamed or infected gum tissue heal and reattach to the tooth roots. Sometimes medication is prescribed in conjunction with a deep cleaning to help the gums heal.
If scaling and root planing aren’t enough to treat gum disease, or the disease is particularly advanced, laser or traditional gum surgery may be needed. These procedures can help remove plaque and tartar from areas that are difficult to reach with traditional dental instruments; they can also help to shrink deep periodontal pockets.
Periodontal Disease Prevention
Diligent at-home oral hygiene habits are crucial to keeping gum disease under control and preventing the disease from worsening. You must brush and floss every day as you are healing from gum disease, and you may need to use a special mouthrinse or medications as prescribed. Dr. Porter and our team will give you recommendations and resources to help you keep your teeth and gums as clean as possible. We may also suggest that you plan dental visits more often than the average person so we can help stay on top of your periodontal health.
How to Schedule Periodontal Treatment
If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease, or if it has been more than six months since your last dental visit and cleaning, you should make an appointment at Porter Dental Health Clinic today. We can be reached via email or by calling 501-624-2778.