Teeth are held firmly in place by the gums, bone and ligaments. Healthy gums fit tightly against the teeth. Gum disease is an infection that affects the tissues and bone that support the teeth. It is caused by plaque, a sticky film that forms on the surface of the teeth, which contains bacteria that can irritate the gums. Inflamed gums begin to pull away from the teeth and form “pockets” that allow more collection of harmful bacteria, leading to gingivitis. Your dentist or hygienist uses an instrument to gently measure the depth of the pockets around each tooth. Healthy gums measure 1-3 millimeters and do not bleed, while infected pockets have deeper measurements and may bleed.
However, if left untreated, gingivitis can progress to advanced periodontitis. With time, as the plaque and tartar build up along the gumline, the soft tissues that support the tooth begin to break down. As the disease progresses, the bacteria will attack and may destroy the bone support and the teeth may become loose and need to be removed.
The good news is periodontal disease does respond well to treatment. When the disease is detected in its early stage, a professional dental cleaning will remove the plaque and bacteria. Your hygienist can also give you helpful advice for improving your home care. Patients with advanced gum disease require a special cleaning, called scaling and root planing, or periodontal cleaning, where the dentist or hygienist carefully removes plaque, tartar and bacteria down to the bottom of each periodontal pocket. This “deep cleaning” allows the tissues to heal and reattach to the tooth. This procedure may take more than one visit. At follow up visits, pocket measurements will chart the success of the periodontal cleaning.
If you would like more information on gum disease and gingivitis, please visit the American Academy of Periodontology.
If you would like a checkup, please visit our general dentistry office in Sidney, Ohio!