Periodontal disease is an infection of the tooth’s structures. These include the ligaments, gums, bone and tissues that are necessary for good oral health. Bleeding and swollen gums are early signs of gums that have been infected with bacteria. According to a study by researchers at the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) performed in 1999, about half of Americans over the age of 30 experience bleeding gums. What’s even more surprising is the fact that many people think this occurrence is normal.
Stages of Gum Disease
In fact, the presence of bleeding and swollen gums is a sign that you could have the first stage of periodontal disease, gingivitis. This is caused by a buildup of plaque that occurs at the gum line. Plaque is a sticky substance that can form on the teeth. If plaque isn’t removed regularly, the body’s immune system releases substances that are an attempt to oust the bacteria. This reaction from your body is what causes the bleeding and swollen gums that mark gingivitis. It’s at this earliest stage that gum disease can most easily be reversed.
Periodontitis is the second stage of gum disease. It is at this stage that the bones, tissues and fibers that support your teeth are damaged. Periodontitis is marked by pockets that form below the gum line. Though gum disease cannot be reversed at this stage, there is much that a dentist can do for a patient with periodontitis. Improved oral care at home performed by the patient, as well as specialized dental treatment, can often help reduce further damage.
The final stage of gum disease is advanced periodontitis. It is at this late stage that the other, supporting structures of the teeth are damaged. These bones, ligaments and fibers are destroyed which can lead to your teeth becoming loose or shifting in your mouth. Not only can this adversely affect your bite, it can also require that those teeth be removed.
Treatments for Periodontal Disease
For people who have gingivitis, there is still hope of reversing the disease. With good daily oral care at home in the form of proper brushing and flossing — as well as regular professional dental cleanings — gingivitis can be reversed.
Once gum disease reaches the periodontitis stage, though, professional intervention is necessary in order to save the teeth. Scaling and root planing is a treatment that is performed at the dentist office to scrape and remove the tartar and plaque from the root surfaces and the teeth. Afterward, these surfaces are smoothed to remove any roughness that can provide a welcoming place for bacteria to settle and flourish. Scaling and root planing is a procedure that could take more than one dentist visit to finish. Eventually, the gums heal and then reattach to the clean surfaces of your teeth.
There are other treatments available for advanced gum disease. Have you had a regular cleaning at Dupont Dental lately? Contact us today to make an appointment and to obtain an evaluation of your oral health!