Gum disease is also referred to as periodontal disease, and it is a bacterial infection that destroys the attachment fibers and supporting bones that anchor the teeth in the mouth. Gum disease if left untreated could lead to tooth loss as well as increased risk of heart attack or stroke. The leading cause is plaque which is bacteria that constantly sits on the teeth. Daily brushing and flossing along with regular professional dental cleanings can significantly decrease your chance of developing periodontitis. The plaque that stays on the teeth for longer than a few days can harden and calcify. This is called tarter or calculus. This substance than requires a professional dental cleaning to remove it. At first, the calculus irritates the gum. It may appear as redness around the base of the teeth. This progression is called gingivitis. In time, the gum pockets widen as more calculus sits under the gum and the disease now involves bone loss as well as tissue loss. The is called periodontitis. There are stages of this disease, mild, moderate, and severe.
Treatment of periodontal disease is a full mouth scaling and root planning. This is the first line of defense. Local anesthesia may be used along with antimicrobial medicaments to resolve the bacteria and reduce the gum pockets. Some times the disease is too advanced for this treatment. A referral to a periodontist for further evaluation is required. Proper diagnosis of this disease is key to proper treatment. A full mouth gum analysis should be performed by your dental provider prior to determining the type of cleaning necessary. A full comprehensive set of x rays is also critical.