According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of Americans over age 30 have advanced periodontal disease, known as periodontitis. Left untreated, the condition can lead to tooth loss. Fortunately, though, it is possible to overcome even advanced periodontal disease with prompt and thorough dental treatment. Here is what you should know.
Periodontal disease, or gum disease, begins as gingivitis, in which bacteria begin to invade your gum tissue. Signs include redness or swelling in the gums, along with bleeding when brushing or flossing. At this point, it is easy to reverse. Step up your brushing and flossing routine and see your dentist as soon as possible for a professional cleaning.
Untreated gingivitis can progress to periodontitis. At this point, bacteria start to advance into the ligaments and bones that support your teeth. Painful abscesses, receding gums, and shifting teeth are common signs of periodontitis. At this point, you are at serious risk for tooth loss if you don’t seek treatment. See your dentist immediately.
Scaling and Root Planing
Scaling and root planing is the first line of treatment for periodontitis. After numbing your mouth with a local anesthetic, we will use a variety of tools to remove built-up plaque and tartar from below your gum line, removing the bacteria and infection. We will then gently reshape the tooth roots to encourage healthy reattachment of the gums to the teeth. We may prescribe a mouth rinse for you to use during healing.
In most cases, scaling and root planing takes care of the problem, and the pockets around your teeth will return to a healthy, normal size. You will remain at higher risk of recurrence, so we may recommend more frequent professional cleanings than average, such as four times per year instead of two. You will not need another scaling and root planing procedure unless your periodontitis recurs.
Surgical Options for Periodontal Disease
Occasionally, scaling and root planing is not enough to restore your teeth and gums to health. In this case, we may recommend surgical treatment. Surgical options for periodontal disease include:
If the pockets around your teeth do not reduce to normal levels, you may need a pocket reduction. After numbing the area, we will fold back the gum tissue to access the damaged bone. Smoothing the bone and removing any remaining bacteria typically encourages the gum tissue to reattach.
If your gums have receded to the point that the roots are exposed, we can take tissue from your palate and graft it onto your gums to cover the roots. This helps protect the roots from decay and sensitivity, while halting gum recession and bone loss.
If periodontal disease has destroyed some of your jawbone, we can rebuild it with bone graft made of powdered synthetic bone and tissue-stimulating proteins.
Periodontal disease can be quite serious, and once you have had it you are at an elevated risk for recurrence. Fortunately, even advanced periodontitis can be managed with modern periodontics techniques.