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Periodontal Disease

The first stage of periodontal disease is called gingivitis.  During this stage, only the gum tissue is affected.  Plaque, tartar buildup and bacteria cause gum inflammation and bleeding.  Luckily, gingivitis is easily reversible.  A thorough cleaning, followed by a healthy home oral care routine of regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing, will restore your gums to good health.

The more advanced stage of periodontal disease is called periodontitis.  It is an oral infection that is marked by the breakdown of structures that surround and secure the teeth, including bone, gums and ligament fibers.  Periodontitis is usually a result of untreated plaque buildup.  It is made worse by several additional factors, including heredity, smoking, diabetes and other health issues.  Poor diet, stress, bad habits and clenching/grinding of your teeth are among the worst offenders.  Despite the fact that periodontal disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults, the combination of modern treatment and preventive care can often preserve teeth indefinitely.

Diagnosis

Early signs of gingivitis include redness, tenderness, bleeding and inflammation around the gum line.  Generally, at this early stage, a good cleaning (and improved daily oral hygiene habits) will resolve things.  Dr. Sulzbach will check for hardened plaque, called tartar, above and below the gum line.  He may use a tool called a probe to test gums for bleeding and measure periodontal pocket depths.  All teeth have a natural crevice in the gum area incasing them.  If that crevice (referred to as a pocket) grows deeper than 3 millimeters, it is increasingly more difficult to adequately clean around the tooth.  Progression from gingivitis to periodontitis becomes a major concern at this point.

Treatments

Deep cleaning procedures (called scaling and root planing) can effectively diminish moderate periodontal disease by removing the deposits of germs which cause the infection.  These procedures create a healthier environment for your teeth, which makes is easier for you to maintain.  Typically, such deep cleaning procedures are done on a portion of your mouth at a time while you are numb with a local anesthetic.  For more severe cases, Dr. Sulzbach may recommend a surgical procedure performed by a specialist (called a periodontist) to fully remove the disease.  For people who have been treated for gum disease, periodontal maintenance procedures are typically needed every three months.

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