Periodontal disease is another term for gum disease, a progressive disease that’s caused by bacteria found naturally in the mouth. Good brushing, flossing, and regular professional cleanings can help prevent gum disease from occurring by removing harmful bacteria and the tartar and plaque that serve to hide bacteria along the gum line and below the gums. When bacteria are not removed, they continue to multiply, releasing toxins that cause gum tissue to pull away from the tooth surfaces and move down the gum line, causing gum recession. Over time, these bacteria continue to move down the gum until they reach the root pocket, infecting the tissues surrounding the root causing bone deterioration, so teeth become loose and eventually fall out.
Gum disease occurs in stages. In its very earliest stages, it may cause no symptoms at all, but as it progresses, it can cause gums to become sore, red and swollen, sometimes causing bleeding when teeth are brushed or flossed. This stage is called gingivitis. As the disease continues without treatment, affecting the areas below the gums and causing bone deterioration and gum recession, it can cause pain or sensitivity when chewing or biting, severe gum recession, tooth loosening and finally, tooth loss. In fact, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the U.S.
The treatment of gum disease will vary depending on the stage of the disease and its extent. In its earliest stages, routine cleanings may be sufficient to remove bacteria along the gum line before they can cause gum recession or other symptoms. Multiple cleanings may be needed to keep bacterial growth under control, and patients also may receive instructions to improve their at-home care. When the disease is more advanced, deep-cleaning methods called root scaling and planing may be required to remove bacteria that’s become lodged under the gums. Sometimes advanced forms of the disease will require oral surgery to access the lower portions of the tooth root so bacteria can be completely eradicated. Gum grafts may also be needed to replace gum tissue that’s been lost.
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