Mouths are full of bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, and will constantly form plaque – a sticky, colorless film – on the teeth. Both brushing and flossing help to remove plaque on a regular basis, but when plaque is not removed consistently, it hardens and forms tartar that brushing and flossing alone will not fully clean. This can be the start to a number of issues, including gum disease in the form of gingivitis.
When gingivitis is not treated, the potential for periodontitis or Henderson periodontal disease can occur. Defined, this condition is a more severe gum disease that is caused by inflammation around the tooth, where the gums begin to pull away from the teeth and form spaces (or pockets) that then become infected. The body’s immune system fights off the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. If not treated, the bones, gums, as well as the tissue that support the teeth are eventually destroyed, and teeth may need to be removed completely.
In addition to not brushing and flossing regularly, the following risk factors can play a role in developing gum disease:
This is the most significant risk factor associated with the development of periodontal disease, and can lower the chance of successful treatment.
Patients with diabetes are at a much higher risk for developing infections, including gum disease.
There are a number of prescriptions as well as over-the-counter medications that can reduce saliva production in the mouth, which generally acts as a protector of the teeth and gums. Without the presence of enough saliva, the mouth is more vulnerable to infections, including Henderson periodontal disease.
To determine whether or not a person has periodontal disease, a dentist may take an x-ray to see whether there is any bone loss, or refer a person to a periodontist – an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease.
Periodontal disease can be treated in a number of ways, with the primary focus on controlling the infection. Each individual may require a different treatment regimen, depending on how severe the extent of the gum disease is, but will generally require up-keep on a daily basis at home. Other treatments may include the following:
Also known as Scaling and Root Planing, the dentist or periodontist will remove the built up plaque through a process of deep cleaning called scaling and root planing. Scaling involves scraping off tartar from above the below the gum line, while root planing eliminates rough spots on the tooth root where germs are present. Both help in removing bacteria that contribute to gum disease.
Treatment may include medication on top of deep cleaning, depending on how far the disease has progressed, which can reduce the potential for surgery.
In the most severe cases of periodontitis, surgery may be required when inflammation remains after deep cleaning or medication.