Periodontal or Gum disease is an acute or chronic infectious process affecting the tissues surrounding the teeth. This includes the gums and the fibrous attachments which buttress the teeth and supporting bone. Gone unchecked, periodontal disease can result in bone loss and eventual loosening and loss of the teeth. It is often associated with systemic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Periodontal disease is usually a slow, painless and progressive process. Most adults with periodontal disease are unaware they have it. If diagnosed and treated early, however, the teeth can be saved.
The primary cause of periodontal disease is the accumulation of bacterial plaque at and under the gum line. Plaque is often a colorless mass of bacteria and food debris that sticks to teeth,crowns, bridges and other tissues in the oral cavity. Plaque is constantly forming on the teeth and must be removed regularly to maintain dental and periodontal health. Inadequate oral hygiene results in irritation of the gums, causing them to become red, tender and swollen.
Over time, plaque combines with natural minerals in the mouth forming calculus (tartar). These hard concretions adhere to the teeth and form a rough surface on the teeth and roots, allowing for even more plaque accumulation. Calculus, of itself, does not cause the deterioration of the periodontal attachment. Rather, it serves as a substrate for the further colonization of bacterial plaque on the irregular root surfaces. The bacteria initiate and perpetuate the inflammatory process that causes periodontal disease.
In more advanced cases, pocket depths of greater than 5 or 6 mm, all the subgingival (beneath the gum) calculus may not be eliminated. Depending on the re-evaluation of the periodontal tissues after scaling, further treatment — often surgical re-contouring of the gums — may be required to establish an environment which can be maintained with brushing, flossing and other cleansing aids.
The ultimate success of any periodontal treatment is a cooperative partnership between the patient and the dental staff. Alone, neither can accomplish this goal.
Source: American Academy of Periodontics: www.perio.org
Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. We screen every patient for periodontal disease and provide conservative, non-surgical therapy for those patients for whom it is appropriate, which is called Scaling, Root Planning and Debridement. After periodontal therapy, a patient is usually seen for maintenance visits (not “cleanings”, though similar), on a more frequent schedule than that of a routine dental patient. We typically see “perio” patients 3 to 4 times a year, and for those patients who have been treated for advanced periodontal disease, we often alternate maintenance visits with their periodontist.