Periodontal (gum) diseases are chronic infections of the structures which surround and support the teeth. Periodontal disease begins with an accumulation of dental plaque (sticky, colourless film of bacteria that forms on teeth).
The early stage of the disease is called gingivitis and the signs of this disease can be subtle. Signs include swelling, redness and bleeding of the gums.
The treatment for gingivitis is usually a thorough cleaning of the teeth by a dentist, dental hygienist or periodontist. If left untreated, gingivitis can often progress to periodontitis. This is a more severe form of the disease in which bacteria and the body’s own immune system attack the ligaments and bone that hold teeth in place. If periodontitis is not treated, it will result in bone loss, tooth mobility and the eventual loss of teeth. There is also evidence that periodontal disease can affect your general health.
The goal of treatment is to control the gum infection. The types of treatment will vary, depending on the extent of the periodontal disease. For example early gum disease can be treated by a deep clean while advanced gum disease may require additional gum surgery. Any type of treatment requires excellent daily care at home changing certain behaviours, such as quitting smoking.
The dentist, dental hygienist or periodontist removes the plaque through a deep cleaning procedure called scaling and root planing. Scaling means scraping off the tartar from above and below the gum line. Root planing gets rid of rough spots on the tooth root where the bacteria hide, and helps remove bacteria that contribute to the periodontal disease. In some cases a laser may be used to remove plaque and tartar which can result in less bleeding, swelling, and discomfort compared to traditional deep cleaning methods.