Periodontal Disease and Treatment

The word “periodontal” literally means, “around the tooth.” Healthy gum tissue fits like a cuff around each tooth. Where the gum line meets the tooth, it forms a slight v-shaped crevice called a “sulcus.” In healthy teeth, the space is usually about three millimeters deep, or less.

Periodontal diseases are infections that attack the tissues and bone that support your teeth. As the tissues are damaged, the sulcus develops into a pocket that is greater than three millimeters deep. Generally, the more severe the disease, the greater the pocket depth and bone loss. The enlarged pockets allow harmful bacteria to grow, and that makes it a lot more difficult for you to maintain a healthy mouth.

Signs of Periodontal Disease

It’s possible to have periodontal disease without noticeable symptoms. Several warning signs can signal a problem. If you notice any of the following, it’s time to come see us!

•   Gums that bleed easily
•   Red, swollen or tender gums
•   Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
•   Persistent bad breath
•   Pus between the teeth and gums
•   Loose or separating teeth
•   A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
•   A change in the fit of partial dentures

The Stages of Periodontal Disease

If the disease is caught very early (gingivitis), and no damage has been done, better brushing and flossing may correct the problem.

If the disease is more progressed, we’ll do a special cleaning called a “scaling and root planing” to remove plaque and tartar deposits on the hard-to-reach tooth and root surfaces. The procedure helps gum tissues to heal and pockets to shrink. Patients experience little or no discomfort during this procedure. With the exception of slight cold sensitivity and tenderness, discomfort following the procedure is also rare. We may recommend some medications to help control infection and aid the healing.

In the case of very severe periodontal disease, more thorough treatment may be needed along with anesthetic to keep you comfortable.

Good oral hygiene at home is essential to keeping periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring. Remember, it just takes a few minutes twice a day to care for your teeth and gums!