Periodontal disease is one of the most common oral health issues among adults. Specific forms of the condition range from simple gum inflammation to severe gum disease, which can cause serious damage to the soft tissues and bones that support your teeth. In the worst-case form of the disease, tooth loss is common.
Periodontal disease often starts out as gingivitis, or the buildup of bacteria-filled plaque that can cause irritation, redness, and inflammation in the gums along the base of your teeth. At this stage, gum disease can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, along with routine professional dental care. Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, which is what happens when gums recede away from your teeth, forming spaces or pockets that can become infected. During this stage, bacteria and your body’s own immune response begin to break down the soft tissues and bones that keep your teeth in place.
Periodontics is a dental specialty that’s exclusively focused on preventing, diagnosing, and treating all forms of periodontal disease. Periodontists receive extensive training and are familiar with the latest techniques for effective treatment of the gum problems. They’re also trained to perform cosmetic periodontal procedures, including dental implants. Some common periodontal treatments include:
Scaling and root planing: Scaling removes plaque from below the gumline, and root planing smooths the tooth root and helps the gums reattach to the tooth.
Root surface debridement: This procedure carefully removes tartar and collected debris from the root surface of the tooth.
Surgery: Flap surgery can help repair deep pockets that remain after other interventions, while bone and tissue grafts may be necessary to help regenerate any tissues lost to the disease.
The best way to prevent gingivitis and advanced periodontal disease is by practicing excellent dental hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with toothpaste that contains fluoride, and floss regularly to remove food debris and prevent plaque buildup between your teeth. Most people should visit the dentist for a routine cleaning and checkup at least twice a year, but some people may need to go more often, depending on their oral health. If you smoke, you can protect your gums by quitting, as smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of gum disease.