Periodontal disease (sometimes called gum disease) includes all the diseases and infections that affect the gums, ligaments, and bones surrounding the teeth. Most periodontal diseases are caused by bacteria that invade the areas below the gums, including the areas around the tooth roots. These bacteria collect along the gum line, sheltered by hard deposits of tartar and sticky plaque. As the bacteria multiply, they release toxins that cause the gum tissue to shrink away from the surfaces of the teeth, allowing the bacteria to move to deeper regions of the gums. Eventually, the bacteria cause infections around the tooth roots, loosening roots and causing teeth to fall out.
Gum disease can cause different symptoms depending on the stage of the disease. Symptoms can include:
In the very early stages, periodontal disease may cause no noticeable symptoms, which is why having regular cleanings twice a year is so very important in preventing the disease and the tooth loss it can eventually cause. In fact, routine twice-yearly professional cleanings coupled with good home care can help many patients prevent gum disease entirely.
That depends on the stage and extent of the disease. In its very earliest stages (called gingivitis), gum disease may be treated with frequent dental cleanings to remove tartar and plaque and encourage gum tissues to reattach to tooth surfaces. More advanced disease usually requires deep-cleaning procedures called scaling and root planing to remove bacterial deposits below the gum line and around and on the roots. Special antibiotics can also be applied during deep cleaning to destroy bacteria that are difficult to reach. In some cases, a procedure called gum flap surgery may be used to gently fold back the gums from the affected teeth so bacteria and pus can be removed from around the tooth and the area can be thoroughly cleaned of debris. Then the gum tissue is placed back in position and sutured in place.
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