Periodontal Disease.It is not a given that we must lose teeth as we age. If we maintain good oral hygiene and have regular professional cleanings and oral examinations, chances are we can keep our natural teeth for life. That involves not only caring for the teeth themselves, but also the structures that surround them: the gums and tooth-supporting bone. Gum disease, which is a bacterial infection, threatens these supporting tissues. That is why dental professionals are always on the lookout for early signs that patients may not notice. When signs of trouble become apparent, periodontal therapy may be suggested.

Periodontal therapy can take various forms, but the goal is always to restore diseased tissues to health. Gum (periodontal) disease can spread from the gums to the bone that supports the teeth, and may even cause tooth loss in the most severe cases. There are very effective therapies to combat this, ranging from scalings (deep cleanings) that remove plaque and calculus (tartar) from beneath the gum line, to surgical repair of lost gum and bone tissue.

Periodontal Therapy Procedures

Periodontal therapy includes both surgical and non-surgical techniques to restore health to the tissues that support the teeth (gums and bone) and prevent tooth loss. They include:

  • Scaling and Root Planing. These deep-cleaning techniques are the best starting point to control gum disease. Plaque and calculus (tartar) are removed from beneath the gum tissues, using hand scalers and/or ultrasonic instruments.
  • Gum Grafting. Sometimes it's necessary to replace areas of lost gum tissue so that tooth roots are adequately protected. This can be accomplished by taking healthy gum tissue from one area of the mouth and moving it to where it is needed, or by using laboratory-processed donor tissue.
  • Periodontal Plastic Surgery. When used to describe surgery, the word “plastic” refers to any reshaping procedure that creates a more pleasing appearance of the gum tissues.
  • Periodontal Laser Treatment. Removing diseased gum tissue with lasers can offer significant advantages over conventional surgery, such as less discomfort and gum shrinkage.
  • Crown Lengthening Surgery. This is a surgical procedure in which tooth structure that is covered by gum and bone tissue may need to be exposed either for cosmetic reasons (too make the teeth look longer and the smile less gummy) or to aid in securing a new dental crown.
  • Dental Implants. Today's preferred method of tooth replacement is a titanium dental implant, which is placed beneath the gum line and into the jawbone during a minor surgical procedure. The implant is then attached to a realistic-looking dental crown that is visible above the gum line and indistinguishable from a natural tooth.

Your Role in Periodontal Health

Dental plaque is the main cause of periodontal disease, so it's essential to remove it every day with effective brushing and flossing. This doesn't mean scrubbing, which can actually cause your gums to recede. Proper techniques can be demonstrated for you, if you have any questions.

Of course, there are some areas of the mouth that a toothbrush and floss just can't reach, which is why it's so important to have regular professional cleanings at the dental office. Your regular dental exam is also a time when early signs of gum disease can be detected — before they become apparent even to you.

Eating a nutritious diet low in sugar, and staying away from tobacco in all forms, will also increase your periodontal health — and your chances of keeping your teeth for life.

Related Articles

Periodontal (Gum) Disease - Dear Doctor Magazine

Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease Have your gums ever bled when you brushed or flossed? This most commonly overlooked simple sign may be the start of a silent progressive disease leading to tooth loss. Learn what you can do to prevent this problem and keep your teeth for life... Read Article

Link Between Heart and Gum Disease - Dear Doctor Magazine

The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases Inflammation has emerged as a factor in the process of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which commonly results in heart attacks and strokes. While the precise role inflammation plays in causing chronic CVD remains an area of intense investigation, much more is now known. The good news is that, based on current research, we know that if we can reduce the inflammation caused by periodontal disease, we may reduce the risk for heart attacks and strokes... Read Article

Periodontal Surgery - Dear Doctor Magazine

Periodontal Surgery — Where Art Meets Science This Dear Doctor magazine article is an overview of how the art of plastic surgical procedures and the science of periodontics can enhance the health and beauty of your teeth. You will learn what periodontal surgery is designed to do, what makes it successful and what to expect during treatment... Read Article

  • Periodontal (Gum) Disease

    While you may think that some loss of teeth is inevitable with aging, it is actually possible for all of your teeth to last a lifetime. One of the ways you can achieve this goal is to avoid periodontal disease (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth), which is caused by bacteria that attack the

    Read more
  • Ultrasonic Cleanings

    After a thorough, professional tooth cleaning, you know that your teeth look brighter and feel fresher. But tooth cleaning isn't just about appearances. It's the primary means of preventing and treating periodontal (gum) disease. Many studies have demonstrated a possible link between periodontal health

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  • Periodontal Flap Surgery

    When advanced gum disease (periodontitis) develops, your teeth are in danger: At this stage, the ligaments and bone tissue that surround them are being destroyed, and you could even begin losing teeth! If the disease can't be controlled by non-surgical treatments like cleaning and scaling, then periodontal

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  • Oral Systemic Connection

    Maintaining good oral health has many rewards: A sparkling smile, fresh breath, and healthy gums. But recent scientific evidence suggests that it may have an even greater benefit to your overall health: Specifically, it could potentially reduce your risk for a number of systemic (whole-body) diseases,

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  • Non-Surgical Periodontal Treatment

    Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection caused by bacterial plaque, a thin, sticky layer of microorganisms (called a biofilm) that collects at the gum line in the absence of effective daily oral hygiene. Left for long periods of time, plaque will cause inflammation that can gradually separate the gums

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  • Professional Teeth Cleanings

    Even if you brush and floss your teeth faithfully, it is important that you have your teeth professionally cleaned on a regular basis. (Of course, if you aren't quite so meticulous about your oral hygiene, it's even more important!) After a thorough cleaning, your teeth will feel smooth and squeaky-clean,

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  • Gum Grafting

    If gum recession is affecting your health or your appearance, a procedure called gingival (gum) grafting may be recommended. Although it might sound scary, a variety of gum grafting procedures are routinely performed by periodontists (specialists in the area of gingival tissue), and by some general dentists

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  • Cosmetic Gum Surgery

    There are many elements that make up an ideal smile; bright, healthy-looking teeth immediately come to mind. But the gum tissue that surrounds and supports those teeth also plays a big role in how appealing your smile will look. There are various cosmetic issues involving gum (gingival) tissue. For

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  • Loose Teeth & Bite Problems

    When you are a child, your first loose tooth can be cause for celebration; when you are an adult, it definitely is not. Biting and chewing with a tooth that is not securely attached in its socket can be difficult or even painful — and any tooth that becomes loose is at risk of needing to be removed

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