Periodontal disease (gum tissue disease) is a chronic disease of the mouth in which your gums become infected causing the bone that supports your teeth to be destroyed. It is a slowly progressing chronic disease (like diabetes). If left untreated, periodontal disease eventually causes so much loss of bone that your teeth become very loose and they fall out.
3 out of 4 adults at some point in their life are affected by gum disease.
The primary cause of gum disease is plaque – a layer of bacteria that sticks to your teeth. If you do not brush the plaque away, it will calcify and become a hard substance known as tarter or calculus. You can brush away plaque but it is not possible to remove tarter with a toothbrush. Most people don’t manage to keep their teeth completely plaque free which is why we recommend professional teeth cleanings at least twice a year to remove any calculus.
The bacteria in plaque cause your gums to become irritated.
In the presence of plaque, your gums become red and swollen and bleed when you brush or floss. This prolonged irritation of your gums creates a pocket/cave around your tooth, which slowly progresses down your root. Untreated, this pocket grows and slowly removes the jawbone from around your tooth. Eventually, the tooth will fall out from the lack of support.
Some people are at greater risk for gum disease. This includes people who:
- Have Diabetes (or immune lowering diseases)
- A history of periodontal disease in their family
What are the steps to manage gum disease?
- The first step in managing gum disease is diagnosis. We always perform a full-mouth periodontal charting during a new patient exam to detect and diagnose any gum tissue disease.
- The second step is treatment. Treating gum disease normally entails getting what is called a “deep cleaning” also known as scaling and root planning. Scaling and root planning is a procedure in which we use local anesthetic so that you feel numb and comfortable. We then clean and remove any tartar or calculus. Approximately 6 weeks later we perform a re-evaluation to check the treated areas. If your gums did not respond as well as hoped, we sometimes place an antibiotic gel called Arestin around your teeth to aid in disinfection and to kill any remaining bacteria.
- The third step is maintenance. It takes only 24 hours before plaque starts to turn into calculus. This is why, if you have gum tissue disease, you normally come in every 3 or 4 months depending on severity. Daily home care is by far the most important factor in managing gum disease. We place great emphasis on teaching you how to properly clean your teeth. This guidance is based on an individual assessment of severity and your personal preferences to make it as easy as possible for you.