Periodontal disease (also called gum disease or periodontitis) sounds scary— and it can be if you don’t take care of your gums.

Periodontal means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth. It begins when the bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth) causes the gums to become inflamed. Gingivitis is the mildest form of the disease. In this stage, the gums redden, swell, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort.

If plaque isn’t removed each day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into a rough, porous substance called calculus (also known as tartar). Toxins produced and released by bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. These toxins cause the breakdown of the ligament that hold the gums tightly to the teeth, creating periodontal pockets that fill with even more toxins and bacteria.

As the disease progresses, pockets become deeper, and the bacteria move down until the bone that holds the tooth in place is destroyed. Eventually, severe infection may develop with pain and swelling, but often this process goes entirely unnoticed. The tooth may loosen and later require removal in the most severe cases.

There are other factors, too. Smokers and tobacco users are at a higher risk of developing gum disease. Changing hormone levels in growing teenagers and women who are pregnant also can increase the risk of gum disease. Stress, clenching or grinding your teeth, an unhealthy diet, and diabetes can increase your chances of developing gum disease as well. And, in some cases, it’s in your genes—nearly 30 percent of the human population is genetically predisposed to gum disease.

In the early stages of gum disease, most treatment involves a special cleaning called scaling and root planing (commonly called a “deep cleaning”), which removes plaque and tartar around the tooth and smooths the root surfaces. This treatment is usually performed with local anesthetic to make you more comfortable.  Antibiotics or antimicrobials may be used to supplement the effects of scaling and root planing.

In most cases of early gum disease, scaling and root planing and proper daily cleaning will definitely help. More advanced cases may require surgical treatment by a specialist called a periodontist.

Once the structures supporting your teeth are lost because of periodontal disease, they will not grow back.  The overall goal of treatment is to stop the problem in its tracks and create an environment that you can maintain with daily oral care.  We’ll often ask that you come back more frequently for a cleaning which we call “periodontal maintenance”.  With time and improved home care many patients can return to a normal cleaning schedule.

You can reach Buxton Family Dental at 970-482-6333 or go to our Contact Us page for more ways to get in touch.

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