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Periodontal (Gum) Disease

Every day, plaque forms on your teeth. Dental plaque is actually a biofilm. A biofilm is a well-organized colony of bacteria that adheres to surfaces and is embedded in a slime layer. It is the bacteria in dental plaque that cause gum disease. Gingivitis, an early phase of gum disease, is an inflammation of the gums caused by the accumulation of dental plaque above the gum line. Virtually all people have gingivitis in at least one area of their mouth at any given time. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more serious and damaging stage of infection and gum inflammation.

Periodontal disease begins when the bacterial infection caused by the plaque inflames gum tissue around your teeth and below the gum line where you cannot see. This is usually a painless process. Over time, the gum tissue and bone that support your teeth become destroyed. If left untreated, the condition often leads to infection, bone loss, pain and eventual tooth loss. Periodontal disease is very common; 8 out of 10 Canadians will develop gum disease at some time in their lives. That is why prevention is so important.

Periodontal disease can almost always be prevented. Basic home care and regular visits to your dentist and hygienist for an examination and a professional cleaning are the best ways to start. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush and floss daily. Dental floss cleans the areas your toothbrush can’t reach- between your teeth and under the gum line. Rinsing with an antibacterial mouth rinse can help, but does not replace flossing.

A professional cleaning in our dental office will remove the plaque you’ve missed and the hard tartar you can’t remove yourself. Our dentists and hygienists will also check for early warning signs that periodontal disease is creeping its way into spots you can’t see. In its earliest stages, periodontal disease can often be reversed. And if you smoke, consider quitting. Tobacco use promotes periodontal disease.

Prevention is the best method of making sure your teeth and gums stay healthy, but if periodontal disease is discovered after the early stages it can often be successfully treated. Initial therapy in the treatment of periodontitis involves non-surgical cleaning below the gum line with a procedure called scaling and root planing. This procedure involves the use of an ultrasonic instrument and specialized curettes to mechanically remove plaque and calculus from below the gum line. We will also utilize our soft tissue laser at this appointment. Laser therapy works by greatly reducing the presence of the periodontitis-causing bacteria, thus decreasing the level of inflammation. Additionally, lasers have a biostimulating effect, helping your body’s natural healing process. So when the area is treated, the bacterial activity that causes inflammation and eventual bone loss is interrupted, giving the tissues a chance to heal. Periodontal health can thus be reestablished.

Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. Studies show that after a professional dental cleaning, bacteria levels tend to grow back to pre-cleaning levels after about 3-4 months. Dental plaque deep within pockets cannot be completely removed by brushing, flossing, or oral rinses. Therefore, frequent cleanings by a dental hygienist every 3-4 months is an essential component in the treatment of periodontitis. These frequent cleanings prevent repopulation of the periodontitis-causing bacteria, and also allow us to closely monitor the affected areas. A lifetime regimen of meticulous home care is also essential.