Periodontal disease, also called advanced gum disease or periodontitis, is a disease process that results in decreased bone in the jaw due to inflammation and often infection in the structures that support the teeth. Even people with a great home care regimen of brushing and flossing can develop periodontal disease over time.
Periodontal disease, when left unchecked, can result in bad breath, bone loss in the jaw, loose or mobile teeth, and infections and abscesses of the gums and bone. There is also substantial research linking periodontal disease to varying systemic health and wellness concerns, including but not limited to Diabetes Mellitus, and cardiovascular disease.
Gingivitis is the term used for early stage gum disease, involving the inflammation or irritation of the gums. Bleeding of the gums during or after brushing and/or flossing is a telltale sign of gingivitis. Luckily, gingivitis is easily treated with regular dental cleanings and diligent at-home care.
When gingivitis is left untreated, the disease process often progresses to periodontal disease, now involving the underlying bone that supports the teeth and gums. Chronically untreated periodontal disease can quickly advance to a sometimes unmanageable degree.
Periodontal disease is treatable with procedures such as scaling and root planing (SRP), followed by periodontal maintenance visits every 3 months. In especially advanced cases, the use of a gum and bone specialist, called a periodontist, is utilized.
SRP consists of a dental hygienist removing the hard calculus deposits (also known as tartar) present above and below the gumline. The dentist may also recommend a prescription mouth rinse, electronic toothbrush, or specific toothpaste to keep the bacteria and gum disease at bay. In more severe cases where a large amount of infection is present, localized or systemic antibiotics may be prescribed.
After SRP is completed, periodontal maintenance cleaning appointments are recommended at patient-specific intervals throughout the year. These visits are important in monitoring and maintaining the bone levels achieved after the initial scaling and root planing. With proper diagnosis and swift and diligent treatment, periodontal disease is quite manageable.
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