What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is an ongoing infection in the gums that destroys the bone support of your natural teeth.   Whereas gingivitis is simply inflamed and swollen gums that bleed and look red, periodontitis involves loss of bone support for your teeth.  Periodontal disease is a very slow progressing disease for most people, and is a disease where an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.  Periodontitis is one of the most common reasons for tooth loss in American adults, and is one of the most common reasons for patients needing dentures.  Studies show that 80% of Americans will be afflicted with periodontal disease by age 45, and 4 out of 5 patients with the disease are unaware they have it.  Proper home care and regular dental visits are very important to reduce the risk of developing this disease .

Dental plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis and periodontitis. Plaque is a sticky colorless film, composed primarily of food particles and various types of bacteria, which adhere to your teeth at and below the gum line. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth, even minutes after cleaning. Bacteria found in plaque produce toxins that irritate the gums. Gums may become inflamed, red, swollen, and bleed easily. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth causing the natural pocket in the gums around the tooth to deepen.  If daily brushing and flossing is neglected, plaque can also harden into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tartar). This can occur both above and below the gum line.  As gingivitis progresses into periodontitis, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorates. The progressive loss of this bone, can lead to loosening and subsequent loss of teeth.

Scaling & Root Planing

The first stage of periodontal treatment for most patients with periodontal disease is Scaling & Root Planing – sometimes called a periodontal deep cleaning. The objective of this procedure to remove plaque, calculus and bacterial toxins that have become attached to and embedded in the root surfaces of teeth. Scaling and root planing can be used as a stand-alone treatment, or as the first step in more advanced cases.

What does the procedure entail?

We will only perform scaling and root planing after a thorough examination of your mouth, which may include taking x-rays and visually examining the mouth. We make recommendations based on the condition of your gums, the amount of calculus present, the depth of the pockets, and the historic progression of periodontitis.

The process especially targets the area below the gum line along the root.  After anesthetizing the area to make sure you are comfortable during the procedure, scaling is performed with a special dental tools.  Root planing is performed in order to remove the damaged surface of the root that is embedded with unwanted microorganisms, toxins and tartar. The root of the tooth is literally smoothed, which promotes healing, and also helps prevent bacteria from easily re-infecting the area in the future.

Benefits of Treatment

If treatment is successful, scaling and root planing may have many benefits.  Reduction in bacterial levels can lead to a reduction in pocket depths, leaving a more maintainable and stable dentition.    The reduction of bacteria establishes a stable starting point for maintenance cleanings.  This also leads to reduced tendency for the gums to bleed during brushing and flossing and to a reduction in the occurrence of bad breath.  Of course, the most important thing is that it reduces the risk of disease progression and eventual tooth loss.

When very deep pockets between teeth and gums are present, it is difficult for us to thoroughly remove plaque and tartar. Patients can seldom, if ever, keep these pockets clean and free of plaque. In these situations further treatment such as periodontal surgery may be needed to restore periodontal health.  If this becomes necessary, we will guide your through the process.