The initial stage of periodontal disease is called gingivitis. At this stage only the gum tissue is affected. Plaque and tartar buildup with the associated bacteria cause gum inflammation and bleeding. The good news is that gingivitis is easily reversible. A thorough cleaning, followed by regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing, restores gums to good health.
The more advanced stage of periodontal disease called periodontitis is an infection that is marked by the breakdown of structures that surround and secure the teeth, including bone, gums, and ligament fibers. Periodontitis is usually a result of untreated plaque buildup, but is made worse by several additional factors. Heredity, smoking, diabetes and other health issues, poor diet, stress, bad habits, and clenching/grinding are among the worst offenders. Despite the fact that periodontal disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults, modern treatment and prevention can often preserve teeth indefinitely.
Early signs of gum disease (gingivitis) include redness, tenderness, bleeding, and inflammation around the gum line. Generally, at this stage, a good cleaning and improved thoroughness and frequency of daily oral hygiene habits will resolve things. Dr. Kinga will check for hardened plaque, called tartar or calculus, above and below the gum line and may use a tool called a probe to test gums for bleeding and to measure periodontal pocket depths. All teeth have a natural crevice in the gum area surrounding them. If that crevice (a pocket) grows deeper than 3 millimeters, it is increasingly more difficult to adequately clean around the tooth, and progression from gingivitis to periodontitis becomes a concern.
Deep cleaning procedures (called scaling and root planing) can effectively arrest moderate periodontal disease by removing the deposits that harbor germs which cause infection. This creates a healthier environment, which is easier for you to maintain. The deep cleaning procedures are generally done a portion of your mouth at a time while you are numb with local anesthetic. For more severe cases, Dr. Kinga may recommend a surgical procedure performed by a specialist (periodontist) to fully arrest the disease. Periodontal maintenance procedures are typically indicated every three months for people who have been treated for gum disease.