If you’ve just been told that you have periodontal disease, chances are, you’re a little worried. This is understandable, but it’s important to remember that the condition is treatable. It will help to know what you’re dealing with and how you can take the appropriate actions in addressing the issue.
Gum disease develops when proper oral hygiene is not maintained, either due to skipping brushing or flossing, or not doing them well. When this happens, plaque is allowed to build up on the surface of the teeth, causing the gums to become irritated and inflamed and bleed easily when brushed. The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis and is usually successfully treated with a professional cleaning along with more conscientious oral hygiene.
If gingivitis is not treated, it can progress into the next stage of gum disease, known as periodontitis. In this stage, the gums start to pull away from the teeth to form pockets that can become infected.
A diagnosis of periodontitis is usually treated with a cleaning procedure called a scaling and root planing, also referred to as a deep cleaning. This treatment removes plaque and tartar buildup from the teeth and beneath the gum line and smooths (planes) the root surfaces to discourage bacteria from collecting there again. The goal of a deep cleaning is to help shrink the periodontal pockets.
During a later appointment, your dentist will check on the size of the periodontal pockets to determine the success of the deep cleaning. Most of the time, patients don’t require further treatment. However, if the pockets are deep and supporting bone is lost, additional treatment – usually surgery – may be necessary.
Patients who have received periodontal treatment will need to visit the dentist more often than the recommended twice a year to allow the dentist to keep an eye on their gum health. A more thorough routine of at-home oral hygiene will also be required – instructions will be provided on how to brush and floss properly to ensure that these efforts are effective.