What is Gum Disease? Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a chronic infection of the gums, ligaments and bone that support the teeth and anchor them in the jaw.
What Causes Gum Disease? Bacteria are normal inhabitants of the mouth living in a thin film called plaque. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form “tartar”, a hard mineral shell, that brushing can’t remove. Only a professional cleaning by a dentist or hygienist can remove tartar. When plaque builds on the tartar surface, it irritates and erodes healthy gum tissue. This early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. If left untreated, pockets begin to form between the teeth and gum tissues. When the supporting bone becomes badly eroded, tooth loss can result. This stage is called periodontitis.
What are the Symptoms?
• Red, swollen, or tender gums
• Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating
• Gums shrinking or pulling away from teeth
• Persistent bad breath
How Is Gum Disease Treated? The main goal of treatment is to control the infection. The number and types of treatment will vary, depending on the extent of the gum disease. Any type of treatment requires that the patient keep up good daily care at home. In the early stages of gum disease, treatment usually involves removing the plaque and calculus in the pockets around the tooth and smoothing the root surfaces. This is called scaling and root planing. In combination with proper daily home care, this is all that is usually required to stop the development of the disease. If you wait until the symptoms are more advanced, a referral to a periodontist may be necessary, and in some cases, surgical treatment.
Deep Cleaning: Scaling and Root Planing Plaque is removed through a deep-cleaning method called scaling and root planing. Scaling cleans off the tartar from above and below the gum line. Root planing gets rid of rough spots on the tooth root where the germs gather, and helps remove bacteria that contribute to the disease. Medications, such as antibiotic gels, may be used with treatment.
What Can I Expect After Treatment? You may experience some sensitivity to the teeth and gums immediately following your treatment. Any discomfort can be controlled with OTC pain relievers such as ibuprophen.
Will My Insurance Cover Treatment? Most dental insurance programs cover most or all of the cost of gum disease treatments. It is important that you check with your insurance carrier to find out what they provide.