The risk of periodontal disease is one of the most important reasons to take great care of our teeth and gums. Periodontal disease can occur when we allow too much plaque (a sticky, colorless substance formed by the bacteria in our mouths) to build up on our teeth and gums. This can lead to inflammation in the gums (known as gingivitis), and eventually, periodontitis.
Periodontitis causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, allowing infected “pockets” to form. Our bodies’ natural immune systems work to fight the infection, but the unfortunate side effect of this is that the gum tissue, as well as the supporting bone and tissue that holds the tooth in place, can become broken down. If left unaddressed, eventually the teeth will become loose and need to be removed. In addition to poor oral hygiene, smoking, hormonal changes, genetic predisposition and other medical conditions like diabetes and AIDS can contribute to gum disease.
To treat periodontitis, the dentist will need to perform a deep cleaning to remove all the plaque that has built up. The methods used are scaling, or scraping away the tartar above and below the gum line, and root planing, which is the process of removing rough spots on the teeth roots that can collect bacteria. Some dentist use lasers for this process, which will cause less bleeding and discomfort than traditional tools.
You’ll likely also be prescribed an antimicrobial mouthwash and some type of antibiotic treatment to help eradicate any lingering infection. If the periodontal disease progressed too far, it may be necessary to also perform surgery. A flap surgery could be needed to remove deep tartar deposits and reduce the pockets that have formed around the teeth. If too much bone or gum has been lost, a graft can help restore the tissue and trigger regrowth.