Periodontal disease, more commonly known as gum disease, is a bacterial infection. The gums become inflamed, irritated, and may even bleed. If the disease progresses untreated, the gums can start to pull away from the teeth, which can cause teeth to loosen and even fall out.
Periodontal disease is very common, affecting nearly half of the population in America. The good news is that it is treatable and preventable.
What causes periodontal disease? Here’s a guide to the causes, treatments, and prevention.
Plaque: The Main Cause of Periodontal Disease
The primary cause of gum disease is plaque, a sticky film of food residue and bacteria that builds up on the teeth. When plaque accumulates and stays long enough it hardens and becomes much more difficult to remove. The bacteria in plaque grow and populate along the gum line and even under the gums in some situations, causing an infection.
The Role of Brushing and Flossing in Prevention of Periodontal Disease
The best way to prevent gum disease is to brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day and floss once a day. Brushing removes plaque from your teeth before it can harden. It is necessary to take special care to brush along the gum line because plaque tends to settle there. Flossing removes plaque from the spaces between your teeth and the pockets between your teeth and gums. It also helps to strengthen your gums so they are more resilient and less prone to infection.
Routine Dental Cleanings Help Treat and Prevent Periodontal Disease
It is recommended that you go to the dentist to have your teeth cleaned and examined every 6 months. Your dentist and dental hygienist will remove any plaque that is left behind after brushing and flossing. They also have special tools that can remove hardened plaque, the type that is more likely to cause gum disease.
Why does hardened plaque lead to gum disease? There are a couple of reasons. The first is that the longer the plaque remains on your teeth, the more likely it is to infect your gums. Also, the bacteria in plaque become more harmful when they reach maturity, which can only happen if it is allowed to remain on the teeth long enough.
There are a few different ways that gum disease can be treated. Treatment is always easier with early detection, which is more likely if you go to the dentist on a regular schedule.
- Removal of plaque. Sometimes all that is required is removal of the plaque that has settled on the teeth. Once the plaque is gone, the infection will sometimes clear up on its own. But it is also necessary for the patient to brush and floss according to the dentist’s instructions to keep the plaque away.
- Antibiotics. Your dentist may prescribe an antibiotic to help your body fight the infection in your gums and reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth.
- Scaling and root planing. Dentists can perform procedures called scaling and root planing that help to clear up gum disease. Scaling involves removing the hardened plaque from the teeth that accumulates under the gum line. Root planing is done next to smooth out the surface of each tooth root so that the gums can form a secure attachment to the teeth.
- Gum grafting. If gum disease has caused the gum tissue to recede (pull away) from the teeth, a gum graft is a procedure to replace the lost gum tissue.
- Perio tray therapy. Dentists may provide medication that is applied with trays that fit over your teeth. This treatment can be applied at home in just a few minutes a day.
Scarsdale Dental Group Provides Periodontal Services
If you have any of the symptoms of gum disease, such as red, irritated, or bleeding gums, schedule an appointment with Scarsdale Dental Group. We can treat your existing gum disease and help you prevent it from coming back. Periodontal maintenance can be included in your regular dental cleanings.