Healthy gums appear pink in color and are seamlessly attached to the teeth. However, without proper brushing and flossing, gum health will deteriorate past the point where normal means can reverse the effects of advanced periodontal disease (gum disease)—when the gums have separated from the teeth. Unfortunately, once conditions have progressed this far, a dentist will be needed to perform periodontal disease treatment.
Periodontal disease ranges in severity from Type 1 (gingivitis) through Type 4 (substantial bone and gum deterioration and possible tooth loss). The process in treating it varies depending on the severity.
Non-Surgical Periodontal Disease Treatment
The initial stage of treatment for mild to moderate periodontitis includes scaling of the teeth and root planing. Scaling is done by scraping off the buildup of hard tartar below the gums. Root planing involves removing a very small portion of the hard outer coating of the tooth root to make the surface smooth. These procedures accomplish three things:
- Tartar and infectious materials are removed from any periodontal pockets
- The surface of the tooth root is smoothed in order to reduce the space in which bacteria can grow
- The gums are aided in adhering to the tooth root again in order to keep food debris and bacteria out
These procedures are generally performed with a numbing agent or a local anesthetic to keep discomfort to a minimum. If the entire mouth is affected by periodontal disease, patients may choose to have one quadrant of their mouth done at a time, to make aftercare and pain more manageable.
After this non-surgical treatment is performed, an antibiotic medication may be introduced into the infected pockets to help limit bacterial growth. Alternatively, patients may use a mouth tray with antibacterial gel every day. Oral antibiotics are recommended for some patients after root planing to rid the mouth of any lingering infection.
Surgical Periodontal Disease Treatment
When periodontal disease is advanced, deep pockets form between the teeth and gums. At this point, a surgical procedure will be necessary to reattach the gums to the underlying tooth roots and restore good oral health. We refer to these gum surgery procedures as “pocket reduction,” since they make the periodontal pockets much shallower.
During a surgical periodontal procedure, the gums are temporarily retracted from the underlying teeth and bones in order to allow full access for tartar removal. The bones may also be smoothed out to help the gums reattach and a small portion of gum tissue may be removed to make the pockets smaller. For patients who have lost too much gum or bone tissue, a graft may be necessary to restore healthy tooth and gum structures to their original dimensions.
The further the disease has progressed, the more extensive and difficult treatment tends to be. While it’s possible to receive restorative treatment for advanced periodontal disease, early intervention is the best choice. For this reason, we highly recommend seeing your dentist at the first sign of gum problems—red, swollen, painful or bleeding gums. If you believe you have developed any level of periodontal disease, contact us today to be properly diagnosed so we can recommend the best treatment options for you.