Periodontal disease, also called gum disease, is an infection of the gum and bone that affects almost 50% of the population. Since it is painless and displays few symptoms in its early stages, many people who are afflicted with this disease are surprised when they receive this diagnosis.
It is caused by plaque which is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth and surfaces of the mouth. Left untreated, it can cause significant damage to the gums and jaw bone and may ultimately result in tooth loss. If you have gums that are infected and bleeding, they provide a direct, easy route for toxic oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Due to the production of bacteria in the mouth, it can also severely impact other systemic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
During regular dental visits, Dr. Flower and our dental hygienists can detect periodontal disease in its early stages before there is significant permanent damage to the gums and jaw bone that support your teeth.
Periodontal disease is a chronic condition. Like diabetes and high blood pressure, periodontal disease is not curable. However, it can be kept under control by a combination of regular professional treatment and diligent home care.
Scaling and Root Planing: The first step is a special non-surgical procedure called scaling and root planing (SRP). During scaling, our hygienist uses hand and ultrasonic instruments to carefully go beneath the gum line to remove plaque and tartar deposits all the way to the bottom of each periodontal pocket. For patient comfort, we suggest gentle numbing of the gums before starting this process. The hygienist then smoothes or planes the root surfaces. This procedure helps the gum tissue heal and encourages the periodontal pockets to shrink. SRP treatment generally requires two visits.
SRP Follow-Up in 4 Weeks: About four weeks after your SRP treatment, you should return to the office so Dr. Flower and the hygienist can examine your gums to see how the periodontal pockets have decreased and healed. The hygienist may also polish the teeth to create smooth surfaces that help prevent the accumulation of stains and plaque. It is usually difficult to do the polishing during the SRP visits because of the presence of bleeding.
Periodontal Maintenance Visits Every 3-4 Months: Within a few hours after you visit the hygienist, the bacteria begin to repopulate and stick to your teeth again. To keep the bacteria level under control, you should return to the office every 3 or 4 months to be seen by the hygienist. This visit lasts about an hour, similar to a regular cleaning visit. However, what happens is much different from a normal cleaning. The hygienist begins by measuring the depths of your periodontal pockets to determine if there have been any changes since your last visit. Then she treats the deep pockets previously damaged by bacteria. She removes the bacteria and tartar that have accumulated on the tooth surface and below the gum line which helps prevent the bacteria from burrowing even further into the foundation of your teeth.
Unfortunately, periodontal disease can not be cured but it can be controlled when we work as partners. Keeping your bacteria level under control requires that you commit to doing what you can at home each day. Our hygienist will help you learn to use effective techniques to help stop the progression of this debilitating disease. If you do not properly clean your teeth and gums twice a day, then plaque will start to harden and mineralize within 24 hours.