Periodontics refers to the tissues surrounding the teeth. This includes gums, oral mucosa, ligaments and bone.
A biofilm of debris and bacteria attach to the surface of teeth after eating. This is commonly known as dental plaque and it must be removed completely after brushing and flossing. If plaque is not successfully removed, it slowly calcifies by the minerals present in the saliva and becomes calculus (tartar), at which point it can only be removed with special instrumentation done by the dentist.
Gingivitis appears when there is inadequate oral hygiene. Plaque has a high concentration of bacteria that causes local irritation and inflames the tissues. To diagnose gingivitis, certain clinical criteria must be met. Some of the most common indications are the following:
- Color: Gums change from a healthy coral pink to an intense red color. However, other conditions and habits like smoking can cover up color changes.
- Size: Gums may appear swollen.
- Contour: Although the contour of gums is influenced by missing teeth, position, etc., when gingivitis is present, the edges of your gums become rounder instead of having a “knife edge” form.
- Tone and texture: Gums becomes non-resilient and lose their natural stippling. Bleeding becomes common especially while brushing and flossing.
Gingivitis can be cured by improving oral habits such as learning a proper brushing technique, flossing, and visiting the dentist for periodic cleanings. Gingivitis may appear in small sections, therefore it can sometimes be hard to notice.
When left untreated, gingivitis rapidly progresses to periodontitis. This is a much more serious disease because it means that supportive structures are being destroyed.
In periodontitis, there is an attachment loss or a separation between gums and the surface of the roots, creating “pockets” that hold more plaque and calculus. Typically the gum line has receded as well. Bone reacts to the infection present, and it slowly reabsorbs, leaving the tooth unsupported. In advanced stages of the disease, teeth may move and begin to fall out.
Periodontitis needs to be treated by your dentist as soon as possible. Treatment takes several appointments where calculus and plaque are removed not only around crowns, but also around the roots and inside the pockets. The purpose is to smooth out the roots and to create a favorable environment that stimulates healing. Periodontal surgery may be needed to facilitate tartar removal and improve the aesthetics of gums.
If you are interested in periodontal treatment, please fill out the “Help me find a Dentist!” form and a participating dental specialist will contact you to discuss your case.