An estimated 80 percent of American adults currently have some form of periodontal (gum) disease. The risk of periodontal disease rises with age, but can happen at any age. Risk factors include smoking, diabetes, hormonal changes, stress, illnesses such as cancer and genetic conditions. Most commonly, this disease is caused by bacteria due to poor oral hygiene.
Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation to serious diseases that can result in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the worst cases, teeth and supporting bone are lost.
The bacteria found in your mouth constantly forms a sticky, colorless film on teeth known as plaque. Without good oral hygiene, which includes brushing, flossing, and visiting your dental hygienist when recommended, this plaque turns into a hard, cement-like material that adheres strongly to the roots of your teeth, pushing the healthy gum tissue away from the root and opening up a “pocket” where food can get trapped and attract bacteria. This alerts the immune system to fight the bacteria as it spreads and grows below the gum line. Bacterial toxins and the body’s enzymes fighting the infection actually start to break down the bone and gum tissue that hold teeth in the jaw. Without prompt treatment, the bones and gums that support the teeth are destroyed. The teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.
HOW IS PERIODONTAL DISEASE TREATED?
The main goal of treatment is to control the infection. The type of treatment varies depending upon the extent of the gum disease. Any type of treatment requires that the patient keep up good daily care at home, adjust his or her diet to cut down on sugars and processed foods and quit smoking if possible.
SCALING AND ROOT PLANING
In addition to antibiotics, Dr. De Rosier recommends scaling and root planing as the first line of defense against periodontal disease. Our hygienist is specially trained to remove the rough areas below the gum line where bacterium have set up colonies contributing to the disease process. After the calculus (tartar) is removed, the tissue can reattach to the root surface. If you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, it is vital that you continue with periodontal maintenance therapy recommended by our hygienist and Dr. De Rosier. The purpose is to control the infection and monitor the disease, with the goal of stabilizing it so that the damage does not continue.