Gum disease is an inflammation of the gum line that can progress to affect the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth. The three stages of gum disease — from least to most severe are gingivitis, periodontitis and advanced periodontitis.
Gum disease can be painless, so it is important to be aware of any of the following symptoms:
- Gums that easily bleed when brushing or flossing
- Swollen, red or tender gums
- Gums that recede or move away from the tooth
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste in mouth
- Loose teeth
- A change in the way your teeth come together
- A change in the fit of partial dentures
- Visible pus surrounding the teeth and gums
- Sharp or dull pains when chewing foods
- Teeth that are overly sensitive to cold or hot temperatures
Bacteria in plaque, a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth, cause gum disease. If plaque is not removed, it can harden and turn into tartar (calculus). Additionally, dental plaque will continue to form on the tartar. Brushing or flossing cannot remove tartar; a dental professional will need to conduct a dental cleaning to remove it.
If not removed through daily brushing and flossing, plaque turns into tartar, which becomes a rough and retentive surface encouraging further build up plaque. The plaque bacteria can infect your gums and teeth, and eventually, the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth will be impacted. There are three stages of gum disease:
- Gingivitis - This is the earliest stage of gum disease. It is the inflammation of the gums, caused by dental plaque buildup at the gum line. You may notice some redness or swelling of the gums, or some bleeding during brushing and flossing. At this early stage, gum disease can be reversed since the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place are not yet affected.
- Periodontitis - At this stage, the supporting bone and fibers that hold the teeth in place are irreversibly damaged. The gums begin to form a pocket below the gum line, which encourages penetration and growth of plaque below the gum line. Professional periodontal therapy and improved personal oral hygiene can usually help prevent further damage to the gum tissue and supporting tissue and bone.
- Advanced Periodontitis - In this more advanced stage of gum disease, the fibers and bone of your teeth are being destroyed, which can cause your teeth to shift or loosen. This can affect your bite and how you eat and communicate. If aggressive periodontal therapy can’t save them, teeth may need to be removed by a dental specialist. Your dentist will provide restorative options if teeth are removed due to periodontal disease.
Proper brushing and flossing go a long way toward keeping gum disease at bay. Using an antibacterial toothpaste or mouth rinse can kill bacteria and lessen the amount of plaque in your mouth. Removing dental plaque is the key to preventing gum disease and improved mouth health.
A professional cleaning by your dentist or dental hygienist is the only way to remove plaque that has built up and hardened into tartar. By scheduling regular checkups twice a year, early stage gum disease can be treated before it leads to a much more serious condition.
If gum disease is more advanced, scaling and root planning can be performed to treat diseased periodontal pockets and gum infection. A dental hygienist uses an ultrasonic scaling device to remove plaque, tartar and food debris above and below the gum line, and hand scales the tooth and root surfaces to make them smooth and disease free. Laser treatments are also sometimes used to remove tartar deposits. If periodontal pockets are more than 5 millimeters deep, that is, if you have moderate to severe periodontitis, gingival flap surgery may be performed to reduce periodontal pockets, as well as bone grafting to restore lost bone.
If your gums have receded to a point where the root surfaces of teeth are already exposed, you may require gum grafting surgery. It is sometimes possible to graft tissue from your palate or another donor source to cover a portion of the exposed root and to reinforce the fragile, receding gum tissue and protect it from further damage.
Gum grafting also has cosmetic benefits if you feel your teeth are too large and are embarrassed by the amount exposed tooth. Gum grafting can also be used to lower the gum line to a more attractive level: this also increases the overall health of the teeth and gums.
At Smile Arts Dental Care, we have a thorough consultation and examination process to ensure that the treatment suits your unique situation and personal needs.
Scaling and Root Planning
The objective of scaling & root planning is to remove etiologic agents which cause inflammation to the gingival (gum) tissue and surrounding bone. Common etiologic agents removed by this conventional periodontal therapy include dental plaque and tartar (calculus).
These non-surgical procedures which completely cleanse the periodontium, work very effectively for individuals suffering from gingivitis (mild gum inflammation) and moderate/severe periodontal disease.
Reasons for scaling and root planning:
Scaling and root planning can be used both as a preventative measure and as a stand-alone treatment. These procedures are performed as a preventative measure for a periodontitis sufferer.
Here are some reasons why these dental procedures may be necessary:
Disease prevention- The oral bacteria which cause periodontal infections can travel via the bloodstream to other parts of the body. Research has shown that lung infections and heart disease have been linked to periodontal bacteria. Scaling and root planning remove bacteria and halts periodontal disease from progressing, thus preventing the bacteria from traveling to other parts of the body.
Tooth protection- When gum pockets exceed 3mm in depth, there is a greater risk of periodontal disease. As pockets deepen, they tend to house more colonies of dangerous bacteria. Eventually, a chronic inflammatory response by the body begins to destroy gingival and bone tissue which may lead to tooth loss. Periodontal disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in the developed world.
Aesthetic effects scaling and root planning help remove tartar and plaque from the teeth and below the gumline. As a bonus, if superficial stains are present on the teeth, they will be removed in the process of the scaling and root planning procedure.
Better breath-One of the most common signs of periodontal disease is halitosis (bad breath). Food particles and bacteria can cause a persistent bad odor in the oral cavity which is alleviated with cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planning.
What do scaling and root planning treatments involve?
Scaling and root planning treatments are only performed after a thorough examination of the mouth. The dentist will take X-rays, conduct visual examinations and make a diagnosis before recommending or beginning these procedures.
Depending on the current condition of the gums, the amount of calculus (tartar) present, the depth of the pockets and the progression of the periodontitis, local anesthetic may be used.
Scaling -This procedure is usually performed with special dental instruments and may include an ultrasonic scaling tool. The scaling tool removes calculus and plaque from the surface of the crown and root surfaces. In many cases, the scaling tool includes an irrigation process that can also be used to deliver an antimicrobial agent below the gums that can help reduce oral bacteria.
Root Planning - This procedure is a specific treatment which serves to remove cementum and surface dentin that is embedded with unwanted microorganisms, toxins and tartar. The root of the tooth is literally smoothed in order to promote good healing. Having clean, smooth root surfaces helps bacteria from easily colonizing in future.
Following these deep cleaning procedures, the gum pockets may be treated with antibiotics. This will soothe irritation and help the gum tissues to heal quickly.
During the next appointment, the dentist or hygienist will thoroughly examine the gums again to see how well the pockets have healed. If the gum pockets still measure more than 3mm in depth, additional and more intensive treatments may be recommended.
If you have any concerns or questions about scaling and root planning, or periodontal disease, please ask your dentist.
Dental emergencies can strike anyone, our patients who commit to regular preventive care present with significantly fewer problems over time. Professional cleanings with a dentist or registered dental hygienist allow us to bring a blend of proactive efforts to you. Deposits of mineralized plaque, known as tartar, adhere to certain areas of the teeth, even with your best efforts. These deposits offer suitable housing for millions of harmful bacteria to reside. Left unchecked, they produce a flood of toxins into the gums. This frequently cascades into devastating chronic problems, even resulting in loss of the teeth.
When you visit us periodically, we can gently remove the deposits from the tooth surfaces. Without sitting undisturbed, bacterial tartar doesn’t have the same opportunity to produce irreversible damage. Furthermore, we use professional-strength polishing paste that gently buffs away stain and microscopic plaque, leaving your teeth ultra-smooth and shiny. Since discoloration settles into the enamel of your teeth over time, this helps slow yellowing while maintaining a glassy surface for better cleansing.