Periodontal disease

Gum disease, most commonly known as gingivitis, can advance to periodontal disease (periodontitis) if left untreated

Periodontal disease becomes more common as you get older. The good news is, your dentist can help you strengthen your gums with simple treatments, like periodontal cleaning. Contact your local Aspen Dental to learn more.

What is periodontal disease (periodontitis)?

How to identify and proactively treat periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is a progressive bacterial infection that targets the gums, ligaments and bone supporting the teeth. It typically develops due to lacking oral hygiene, allowing harmful bacteria to accumulate in plaque and tartar. It creates a film over the teeth called plaque, and can make gums red, swollen and tender. If you don't receive dental cleanings regularly, the plaque hardens into tartar that can only be removed professionally using specialized instruments.

Thankfully, the early stage of gum disease, also called gingivitis, is reversible. To prevent gum disease from settling into a permanent case of periodontal disease, it’s important to regularly visit your local Aspen Dental dentist to keep your smile healthy and clean.

The stages of gum disease

1. Healthy gums

Your gums, jaw and periodontal ligament hold your teeth together firmly, and there is little-to-no buildup of plaque or tartar. 

2. Gingivitis

Bacteria from plaque can irritate your gums, causing them to become red, sensitive and prone to bleeding. Plaque needs to be cleaned to prevent tartar formation, and to stop gum disease from becoming a permanent condition.

3. Periodontitis

As plaque and tartar continue to build up along the gum line, the gum and bone recede in response. This bone loss is not reversible, but it can be stopped before it worsens.

4. Advanced periodontitis

The bone and tissue damage has progressed so that it can no longer hold the teeth properly in place. Teeth can become loose, fall out or need to be removed professionally.

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Periodontal disease symptoms

The more advanced stage of gum disease, periodontal disease, is not reversible and can lead to tooth loss. It’s important to get immediate dental support to recover the health of your teeth and gums.

The good news is, your Aspen Dental team can design a care plan to restore your oral health.

Specialized dental care for periodontal disease

If you’re experiencing any periodontal disease symptoms, Aspen Dental is here for you. Book an appointment with your local dentist today.

Periodontal disease (periodontitis) treatment options

Your Aspen Dental dentist will work with you to determine the best care plan for you and your smile. Discover possible periodontal disease treatment options below.

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease. It’s relatively easy to treat and can usually be controlled with a cleaning from your Aspen Dental care team. Your team will also design a personalized treatment plan and give you helpful advice to keep your teeth and gums healthy. 

If things progress beyond gingivitis, it can affect the bone supporting your teeth, also known as periodontitis. The first step to periodontal disease treatment usually involves scaling and root planing. This treatment may be done over more than one visit, depending on your personal needs.

Scaling: First, your dentist or hygienist removes plaque and tartar with specialized instruments below the gum line and disinfects the area using medication.

Root planing: Then, the root surfaces of your teeth are smoothed, or "planed", to promote the gum tissue to heal and reattach to the roots of your teeth. To enhance healing and minimize any discomfort, it’s possible that your dentist may recommend a prescription for you.

Sometimes, scaling and root planing isn't enough to completely treat the gum disease. If your periodontal pockets don’t fully heal after scaling and root planing, periodontal surgery may be the best next step.

Surgery can help remove plaque and tartar from hard-to-reach areas. Your dentist will advise you of the stage of gum disease and potential outcomes during consult.

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Periodontal disease (periodontitis) treatment FAQs

While anyone can get gum disease, your risk of getting it increases in certain instances, including:

  • Not regularly brushing and flossing your teeth and gums

  • Smoking, chewing tobacco, vaping, and dipping

  • High white blood cell count caused by diseases such as HIV, autoimmune disorders, and diabetes

  • Your age (chances increase after age 65)

  • Medications

  • Birth control pills or pregnancy and the resulting hormone changes

  • Genetics

Using a periodontal probe, your dentist or hygienist can gently measure how deep the pockets around each of your teeth are. Healthy teeth have a pocket depth of 3 millimeters or less—so the lower the number, the better your health. As gum disease grows in severity, the pocket becomes deeper, giving bacteria even more access to your teeth, tissues, gums and jaw.

If your oral health specialist suspects periodontitis is setting in, they may recommend an X-ray. Dental X-rays show the amount of bone supporting your teeth at any given time. If bone density is reduced in either width or length, this could be a sign that periodontal disease is taking effect.

People with heart disease and diabetes are more likely to experience gum disease, as are those who have had a stroke or deal with high amounts of stress. Unfortunately, science has not yet identified the link between these diseases and gum disease, so it’s important to speak with your dentist about any long-term health issues you may have.  

An estimated 70% of people over age 65 have some form of gum disease. Potentially, any patient with a past history of periodontitis can develop recurrent periodontitis if adequate oral hygiene is not maintained.

Here are some simple things you can do to help your gums heal and prevent future problems:

  • Brush your teeth 2 times a day for 2 minutes each time. Use a power toothbrush with soft bristles and toothpaste with fluoride. Fluoride is a natural mineral that helps keep teeth strong.

  • Clean your teeth daily to remove plaque and bits of food from between your teeth. If your gums have loosened, it may be best to use smaller brushes, picks, wider types of floss, or a power flosser to clean between your teeth.

  • Your dentist may also recommend regularly using a specific mouth rinse.

  • Look for the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance on your dental care products. The ADA Seal means these products have met ADA standards for safety and effectiveness.

If you suspect periodontitis, it’s likely that you’ll need to see your Aspen Dental dentist more often than normal. Your gum pockets, which is the space between your teeth and gums, may make it harder for you to clean the plaque off your teeth. Meaning, your oral health could likely benefit from periodontal treatment, also known as dental deep cleaning. Your dentist will talk to you about a treatment plan that works best for you.

Over time, fewer appointments may be necessary. Once the health of your gums is restored, your dentist will determine a maintenance schedule based on your clinical evaluations.

An important part of your care plan will incorporate periodontal cleanings, also known as dental deep cleanings. This is a more extensive cleaning process than the standard to ensure your gums stay healthy. With personalized periodontal maintenance, the amount of plaque bacteria is lowered, calming inflammation and allowing your pockets to shrink. This will lead to healthier gums and a refreshed smile.

We also recommend taking any medication as prescribed by your dentist. They may prescribe you rinses and gels to manage inflammation or discomfort. Your teeth may feel sensitive after treatment, and the medication can help you return to your regular daily activities. Additionally, your periodontist may recommend a special toothpaste or other treatments to decrease your tooth sensitivity.

Although you may experience discomfort and be tempted to avoid cleaning the treated areas, it’s important to follow your dentist’s instructions for at-home care to support the health of your teeth and gums.