What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. These bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums and bone that support your teeth.
Not only does periodontal disease affect your mouth, but research has shown there is a connection between dental plaque, periodontal disease, and certain systemic conditions. Bacteria found in plaque may enter the bloodstream through small ulcers in your gum tissue and contribute to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, preterm birth, low birth weight, bacterial pneumonia, and stroke.
Because early and mild stages of periodontal disease are usually painless, you may be unaware of its presence. Signs of periodontal disease include: gums that bleed easily; red, swollen, tender gums, persistent bad breath or bad taste, receding gums (teeth appear longer), permanent teeth that are loose or separating; and changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.
During your routine check-ups, the dental hygienist uses an instrument called a periodontal probe to gently measure the depth of spaces between your teeth and gums. Healthy gums form a shallow groove called the sulcus between the tooth and gums. Normal depth should be 3mm or less. With periodontal disease, the sulcus develops into a deeper pocket that collects more plaque and is more difficult to keep clean.
Scaling and root planing consists of the dental hygienist using various instruments to remove plaque and tartar beneath the gumline. Tooth root surfaces are smoothed, making plaque accumulation more difficult and allowing gum tissues to begin healing. A local anesthetic is given to reduce any discomfort. Scaling and root planing is performed in quadrants (1/4 of the mouth at a time), although sometimes two quadrants can be done in one visit. Maintaining good oral hygiene following scaling and root planing is the most important step and is essential to preventing periodontal disease from worsening.