Periodontitis, or gum disease, is a common dental health condition characterized by inflammation and recession of the gums. Periodontitis is highly treatable, but the methods that your family dentist will use to treat it will depend on the stage of the condition. Here is an overview of the diagnosis, stages, and treatment of periodontitis.
It can be easy for gum disease to go unnoticed in its earliest stages because there is usually no pain in the teeth or gums. You should keep an eye out for more subtle signs, such as bleeding while you are brushing and slight swelling of the gums.
If you notice the early symptoms of gum disease, visit your dentist for a professional diagnosis. Your dentist will measure the space between your teeth and the dental pockets of the gums using a small metal probe. This measurement will indicate the amount of gum recession that has occurred so that your dentist can identify the stage of your gum disease.
Stages of Periodontitis
The first stage of periodontitis, commonly known as mild gum disease, causes painless swelling of the gums, minor bleeding while brushing, and a buildup of a hard substance called tartar beneath the gum line. Your dentist may use a dental x-ray to examine the amount of tartar that is present in the dental pockets.
Moderate periodontitis is the second stage of gum disease. In this stage, bacteria from the tartar around the roots of your teeth cause painful swelling, more severe erosion of soft gum tissue, and may even begin to wear away layers of the jawbone.
Severe periodontitis occurs when damage to the gums and jawbone is so severe that it will never heal on its own. Gum recession may have progressed to the point that sections of the tooth roots are visible or permanent teeth have loosened and fallen out. Extreme pain and sensitivity when touching the teeth and gums and severe sensitivity to temperature are usually present.
Mild gum disease is treated using manual removal of tartar in the dental pockets. Small metal tools called scalers and planers are used to scrape the tartar away, and the condition usually reverts if you maintain good dental hygiene afterward.
Moderate gum disease often must be treated with pocket reduction surgery. An incision is made in the gums so that the gum tissue can be pulled back to expose the tooth roots. The roots are scaled and planed, and then the gums are sutured back in place so that the space between the gums and teeth is drastically reduced.
To treat severe gum disease, bone and tissue grafting is usually required. Small pieces of your own bone or synthetic bone are integrated with the jawbone to provide a solid anchor for your teeth. Tissue from the roof of your mouth may then be grafted around the tooth roots to replace lost gum tissue. This procedure is done in tandem with pocket reduction surgery to ensure the tooth roots are free of tartar before the new bone and tissue is in place.
Visit your dentist if you notice any symptoms of periodontitis so your dentist can provide treatment and restore your smile to a natural, healthy state.