Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease or periodontitis, is an infection that affects the bone and tissues surrounding your teeth. Pink in color and firm/tight tissue are indications of healthy gums. When the gums are infected, they become spongy, red, may bleed easy during brushing or flossing, and will sometimes cause the teeth to become loose. Patients may also experience constant bad breath. Many patients do not know they have periodontal disease because it rarely causes pain. This disease occurs when the bacteria creates toxins and enzymes which irritate the gums, therefore causing irritation and infection.
How do we diagnose periodontal disease in the office? Besides the signs listed above, we use many tools to help diagnose and determine treatment needed. One way is by using our periodontal probe to measure the pocket depth and assess the severity of your condition. In a healthy mouth, any pocket depth around every tooth that is 3 mm or less is considered to be healthy. As the pocket depths get greater, the more severe periodontal disease is. Over time, the pocket will attract bacteria, food particles and tartar, and the gums and bone will pull away from the tooth root due to these irritants. Again, the result is a deeper and deeper pockets. This is when deeper cleaning, scaling and root planing, is necessary. We use an ultrasonic scaler and hand scaling techniques to help remove the tartar, plaque, and bacteria underneath your gums. Sometimes we place an antibiotic called Arestin in the pockets to help kill bacteria.
After periodontal treatment is complete, a 6 week follow-up appointment is necessary. During this appointment, we will re-evaluate your periodontal pockets. Our goal is improvement of the tissue health, go over home care instructions and answer any questions you may have.
The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) states that 3 out of 4 Americans have some form of periodontal disease. Once diagnosed with periodontal disease, you potentially will always have it. Because the bacteria recolonize in about 90 days, we recommend effective home care and a 3 month periodontal maintenance appointment with your hygienist.