Periodontal diseases are infections of the gums, in which inflammation forms and can lead to the gradual destruction of the bone supporting the teeth. Dental plaque and bacteria are the primary cause of gum disease in genetically susceptible individuals.
Periodontal disease requires treatment called Scaling and Root Planing, often times referred to as a deep cleaning. This deep cleaning removes the build up and infection from the pockets that have formed around the teeth in order to stop the progression of the inflammation and bone destruction.
Once the active gum disease is treated with the deep cleaning, periodontal maintenances are needed to prevent the dangerous bacteria that caused the initial periodontal (gum) disease from returning and reactivating the disease process. Periodontal maintenance appointments are typically needed every 3-4 months. This is because the periodontal disease causing bacteria takes approximately 3 months to repopulate in the pockets around the teeth. If not removed in a timely manner, the bacteria will continue to grow in the pockets and cause the active disease process to return– bringing back with it the inflammation and bone destruction.
Other important factors affecting the health of your gums include:
- Clenching and grinding teeth
- Poor nutrition
Gum disease cannot be treated with a “regular cleaning” or prophylaxis. Most insurance companies allow healthy cleanings twice a year. When gum disease is present, healthy cleanings cannot be performed because they do not adequately treat the disease. This is sometimes difficult to understand because some dental offices perform healthy cleanings on all patients regardless of the presence of disease. Doing this allows the inflammation and bone loss to continue, and will eventually result in the loss of teeth.
Untreated periodontal disease can have drastic effects on not only your teeth, but the rest of your body. Periodontal diseases can predispose individuals to several systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, oral and colorectal cancer, gastrointestinal diseases, respiratory tract infection and pneumonia, adverse pregnancy outcomes, diabetes and insulin resistance, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Preventing Gum Disease
The best way to prevent gum disease is effective daily brushing and flossing as well as regular professional examinations and cleanings. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home dental care, people can still develop some form of periodontal disease. Once this disease starts, professional intervention is necessary to prevent its progression.