When plaque and tartar are left on your teeth, it can allow bacteria to thrive. As the bacteria starts to grow it can irritate your gums, causing them to bleed. You may notice this when you eat or brush your teeth. This is the early stage of gum disease also called gingivitis.
If gingivitis is not treated, the inflammation will work its way down towards the foundations of the tooth causing a periodontal pocket. The bacteria in the pocket can spread and cause more damage to the gums.
Gum disease can break down the bone structures of the teeth and they may eventually become loose. If gum disease is caught in time, its progression can be halted and improved upon.
Common symptoms associated with gum disease include:
Most adults have some degree of gum disease. Having regular check-ups can help prevent gingivitis from developing.
Common causes of gingivitis include:
There are some options to help prevent gum disease from progressing.
This treatment, also called scaling and root planing, removes plaque and bacteria below the gums to prevent bone loss that can loosen teeth and complicate medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. It also gets rid of the bacteria in the pocket and provides the necessary conditions for healing to occur.
During a scaling and root planing, the dentist will use an instrument called a scaler or ultrasonic cleaner to remove all the tarter and plaque under the gums. The rough spots are then planed—or smoothed out. This cleaning process prevents serious gum disease from growing. If however, you allow your gum disease to go untreated and progress to more severe stages, the bones that hold your teeth in place will become damaged. Your teeth will then either fall out, or you will need to have them removed.
Your mouth is divided into four quadrants: right maxillary quadrant, left maxillary quadrant, right mandibular quadrant and the left mandibular quadrant. You may need one, two, three or all quadrants cleaned scaled and planed. Depending on the depth of the periodontal pockets and extensive rough root surfaces, the deep scaling and root planing procedure may be completed into quadrants of work per visit. This allows for only a part of the mouth being frozen at a time and makes for more manageable visits.
If the periodontal pocket does not heal during regular treatment or is inaccessible to the dentist, it may be necessary to access to the area through surgery to have it cleaned properly. Usually under anesthesia, the gum is lifted back so the dentist can clean the area. When completed, it is generally secured in place with a few sutures to help it heal normally.
Questions and Answers
What is scaling?
Scaling is the process of removing dental tartar from the surfaces of the teeth.
What is root planning?
Root planing is the process of smoothing the root surfaces and removing any infected tooth structure. If you have gum disease, the gum pockets around the teeth will have deepened, thereby allowing tartar deposits to form under the gumline. Any roughness can be planed away to result in a silky smooth surface.
Does it hurt?
Depending on the severity of the root surface irregularity and depth of the pocket, anesthesia may be used to help make the cleaning more comfortable for you.