When teeth and gums have been neglected or improperly cleaned for a number of years, hardened bacteria (tartar) can adhere to the roots of the teeth causing mild to severe chronic infection. In early states this mild infection can go unnoticed and may not show any symptoms, but over time it can infect the surrounding bone causing bone loss, loosening or shifting of teeth and even spacing between the teeth.
There are many stages and forms of periodontal disease, including:
- Gingivitis: Mild to moderate inflammation of the gums due to plaque buildup (gums are red and/or sore and bleed when probed).
- Periodontitis: Gum separates from tooth, and the bone level deteriorates. If left untreated, gum infection damages bone and supporting tissues.
- Advanced Periodontitis: At this stage, gums recede further and separate from the tooth. Pus may develop, bone continues to deteriorate, teeth become loosened and may even fall out spontaneously.
Checking for Periodontal Disease
During each routine checkup, your dentist and hygienist will examine you for periodontal disease. A periodontal probe is used to determine if there is any breakdown in the gum tissue attachment or if pockets have developed between your gums and teeth. X-rays are used in order to determine the amount and location of bone loss between teeth.
Treating and Preventing Periodontal Disease
Recommended treatment will depend on the type of periodontal disease and how far the condition has progressed. Scaling and root planing is often referred to as “deep cleaning.” This procedure is usually completed in two appointments. The dentist or hygienist will numb your teeth and gums with local anesthetic. Using special instruments that go beneath the gums they remove the bacteria and tartar.
Local antibiotics can placed without pain into the the pockets created by the bacteria to help the healing process. Once this process is complete we recommend an 8 week follow up to determine if the healing is progressing at the normal rate, and maintenance cleanings four times a year for the first year or two following this initial therapy.