In the U.S., forty-seven percent of adults over thirty have some form of periodontal disease. This statistic only increases with age, to seventy percent of those over 64 years of age. Unfortunately, though usually painless, gum disease is linked to heart disease, arthritis, pregnancy and fertility problems, diabetes, dementia, and respiratory infections, as well as bone and tooth loss.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease, causing gums to become red, swollen, and to bleed easily. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene, but is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care. Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis, as plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins released by bacteria stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body, in essence, turns on itself, degrading the tissues and bone that support the teeth. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms, however, teeth can eventually become loose and may have to be removed.
Scaling and Root Planing is a “deep-cleaning” for periodontal patients, done under a local anesthetic. Dr. Matz, Dr. May, Lisa or Jenny will scrape plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line (scaling), and smooth rough spots on the teeth (planing). Smoothing the rough spots removes bacteria and provides a clean surface for the gums to reattach to the teeth. Sometimes Dr. Matz or Dr. May will also prescribe a topical or oral antibiotic during or after this treatment. Periodontitis can be controlled but not cured, so routine follow up treatment, called periodontal maintenance is necessary to stabilize the condition.