Periodontal Disease & Treatments
Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection of the gum tissue surrounding the teeth. This disease gradually destroys the support of your natural teeth. The primary cause of gum disease is dental plaque (bacteria). This bacteria produces toxins, which irritate the gums and destroy the supporting bone. The gums may or may not turn red, swell and bleed easily. There is often very little pain with periodontal disease until it is too late. If this irritation is prolonged, the gums separate from the teeth, causing pockets to form. These pockets make it harder for you to clean and easier for more plaque to form. Plaque can also harden into a rough, porous substance known as calculus (or tarter). This can occur both above and below the gum line. As periodontal diseases progress, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorate. If left untreated, this leads to tooth loss.
Since periodontal disease is a serious and often ongoing condition, it takes a commitment for prevention to effectively control the disease and keep your teeth for a lifetime. After treatment for periodontal disease, it is important to keep a regular cleaning schedule with your specialist or dentist. Daily brushing and flossing will keep dental calculus to a minimum, but a professional cleaning will remove calculus in places your toothbrush and floss have missed.
Non-surgical therapy targets removal of the bacteria and their deposits from the tissues and root surfaces of teeth with deep pockets. This involves numbing the tissues, bone and teeth so effective deep cleaning can be accomplished below the gum line. This is called scaling and root planning. Sometimes, local antibiotics may be recommended in deeper areas after the scaling/root planning has been completed to help fight the bacteria in a deeper pocket. A bite adjustment, bite appliance, or splinting may also be recommended if you have loose teeth in order to make the teeth more stable during the healing from the scaling and root planning.
Osseous (meaning “bone”) surgery involves removing and/or reshaping the jawbone under the gum. It is called “osseous surgery” because most of the damage that occurs takes place in the underlying bone. Actually, gum disease and its attendant infection that spreads below the gum tissue can destroy the bone structure below. The bone becomes irregularly shaped, preventing the gum from laying down flat. Periodontal disease causes the supporting tissue and bone around and below your teeth to become destroyed. Over time, deep pockets develop and are breeding grounds for infection and decay. Eventually, if too much bone is lost, the teeth will need to be extracted. A regenerative procedure can reverse some of the damage by regenerating lost bone and tissue.
Traditional osseous surgery involves folding back the gum tissue and removal of the disease-causing bacteria. Membranes (filters), bone grafts or tissue-stimulating proteins can be used to encourage your body’s natural ability to regenerate bone and tissue. A less invasive form of the surgery is the LANAP Protocol (Laser Periodontal Therapy Program). For more information please see Laser Therapy.