Periodontal (gum) disease is the leading cause of tooth loss, so it is important that your dental team always evaluates the condition of your gums at your regular dental check-ups. There is a natural space between your tooth and gums (sulcus or pocket) that collects food and bacteria. If you are unable to clean this area, the bacteria trapped in this space will cause irritation and inflammation of your gums and will start to break down the tissue supporting your teeth, including the bone! Deep pockets, inflammation, bleeding, tooth mobility, calculus, etc., are evaluated to assess and diagnose your periodontal health. Once your doctor or dental hygienist determines you have gum disease, the appropriate treatment will be recommended.
In the early stages of periodontal disease, you may be asked to come in sooner for your next regular cleaning and your oral hygiene practices will be reviewed. In cases where a patient has mild to moderate periodontitis, a periodontal cleaning called scaling and root planing (deep cleaning) will be recommended. In this type of cleaning, the dentist or hygienist will thoroughly clean the sulcus from plaque, calculus, and infected tissue while the area is numb. Once the debris is cleared, the gums are able to heal and the pockets will shrink. In special or more severe cases, antibiotics in isolated areas of the gums, or a referral to a periodontal specialist may be necessary.