Periodontitis, or gum disease, is caused by a bacterial infection that, if uncontrolled or left untreated, causes loosening of the teeth and eventually tooth loss. It is the leading cause of tooth loss and why many people, even today, require dentures later in life.

As we live our life, plaque accumulates on our teeth beginning around the gum line. This plaque is an irritant to the gums and needs to be removed by regular brushing, flossing and routine cleanings. A chronic irritation of the gums develops if plaque or calculus is allowed to remain on the teeth. This is what is called Gingivitis. Your body’s immune system fights this irritation and in the process your gums become red, swollen, and may bleed when you brush. These are the classic signs that gingivitis is developing. Over a period of years this irritation becomes toxic to the supporting tissues of your teeth and gum recession and progressive bone loss is the result. This is called Periodontitis.

Treating gingivitis is as simple as more frequent or more effective home hygiene involving twice daily brushing, daily flossing, and routine dental cleanings. Mouthwash is not required but we like to call it the “icing on the cake.”

Periodontitis is a little more difficult to treat. Most of the time it requires a form of “deep cleaning,” or scaling and root planning. It is called deep cleaning because it involves removing build-up and bacteria from deep below the gum line and on the roots of the teeth. Once all the debris is removed, the irritation stops and the periodontitis is arrested. We like to follow-up with the patient every three to four months until we are sure the periodontitis has stopped and the at home care is keeping the disease under control. In some cases gum surgery is needed to allow for more effective home care.

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