Periodontal Disease

What is periodontal disease?

More than half of the adult population in the U.S. have some level of periodontal disease.  Periodontal disease (aka. periodontitis or gum disease) is a disease of the bone, ligaments and gums supporting the teeth.  There are a number of factors contributing to periodontal disease and it is often preceded by gingivitis. One of the causes is due to plaque and calculus/tartar buildup around the teeth that destroys the supporting tissues.  In most cases involving healthy individuals, regular professional cleanings and effective home care can prevent periodontal disease.

How is periodontal disease treated?

Depending on the severity of the disease, treatments may vary.  In earlier stages, scaling and root planing is the recommended first step.  Scaling and Root Planing (SRP) is commonly known as deep cleaning.  It involves using special instruments to reach the depths that aren’t accessible with normal brushing and flossing.  As harmful bacteria build up in deep areas between the tooth and the gums (known as periodontal pockets), healthy tissues are destroyed.  Your dental hygienist uses special instruments to remove infected tissue that surrounds the teeth and their roots to allow your body to heal and in early stages, this can regenerate lost tissue.

Depending on the severity, it may require more than one visit to complete the treatment of the areas involved.  This is followed by re-evaluation of the sites treated around 4-6 weeks after the completion of SRP treatment(s) to evaluate your body’s response.  For those with periodontal disease, it is important to be treated at recommended intervals until condition improves.  The goal is to improve or prevent further loss of the supporting structure that holds your teeth in place.

How does scaling and root planing help with periodontal disease?

Scaling and Root Planing (SRP) removes the harmful plaque and calculus (hardened plaque) that destroys the supporting tissues around each tooth.  Once the area is completely free of calculus and plaque, the body is expected to heal.  Depending on the severity of the periodontal disease, the goal is to either reverse or maintain your periodontal condition to prevent further destruction.  Periodontal disease must be monitored closely.  Because the treatment often involves reaching depths beyond what is accessible with regular tooth brushing and flossing, anesthetizing the area to be treated is often necessary for patient comfort.