Dr. Sue Hollinsworth

Periodontal (gum) treatment

Periodontal disease is a serious infection of the gums and other tissues surrounding the teeth. Millions of Americans have periodontal disease. Left untreated, it can lead to bone and tooth loss. The symptoms of periodontal disease are often painless, so you may not be aware you have it until severe damage has occurred.

Periodontal dieseases are caused by plaque, a sticky film that is always forming on your teeth. Plaque contains bacteria that produce harmful toxins which can irritate and inflame the gums.

 Gingivitis is the early stage and it can be characterized by red, swollen gums which may bleed easily when you brush or floss. This disease is reversible at this stage with thorough,regular brushing and flossing and a professional cleaning at your dentist's office. If it is not treated, gingivitis may lead to a more serious condition called periodontitis.

Periodontitis can do lasting damage to the gums,bones, and other structures that support the teeth. There is no cure for periodontitis, but it can be controlled with appropriate treatment and diligent home care. At more advanced stages, more complex treatment may be required to prevent tooth loss. In the worst case, teeth can become loose and infected and need to be pulled.

The first step to treating periodontal disease usually involves a special cleaning, called scaling and root planing.In this treatment, plaque and tartar(calculus) are carefully removed down to the bottom of each periodontal pocket. This treatment may be done over several visits and with anesthetic, depending on your needs. The root surfaces of the teeth are smoothed, or planed, to allow the gum tissue to heal and reattach to the teeth. This is sometimes called "periodontal cleaning" or "deep cleaning".

Medications may also be recommended to help control the infection and aid in healing. These could include a pill, mouthrinse, or a substance that the dentist places directly into the periodontal pocket after scaling and root planing.

Once the scaling and root planing is complete, another appointment will be made within a couple of weeks. At this appointment, the dentist or hygienist will look to see how the gums have healed and measure some of the pockets again. If the disease continues to advance, more treatment including surgery and removal of teeth may be necessary.