Periodontal disease is a term that encompasses a wide variety of dental problems. It may or may not have symptoms that have been visible to you. Bleeding gums, mobile teeth, and bad breath do not always show up early in the disease process. That is why it is important to see a dental professional regularly for screening of periodontal disease and treatment.
Periodontal disease is not treated in one visit. After evaluation and diagnosis of periodontal or “gum disease,” your individual treatment needs are presented. Usually, a deep cleaning called “scaling and root planing” is the first step of treatment. If the disease is quite advanced, you may be referred to a periodontist for treatment that may include gum surgery.
Periodontal disease left untreated may result in pain, infection, and tooth loss. Another aspect of periodontal disease to be aware of is the link to systemic diseases. Emerging, new studies continue to tell us more about the link periodontal disease has with your overall health, including cardiovascular disease.
Periodontal disease is characterized by bone loss, inflammation, and quite often dental calculus. Calculus is a hardened material that can only be removed by a dental professional. Over time, leftover foodstuff hardens or calcifies around and below the gum line; we call that calculus or tartar. You can reduce the general amount of tartar present in your mouth with proper daily brushing, flossing and dental mouth rinses. Calculus present under the gum line cannot be removed by brushing harder. It must be removed by a special dental cleaning called scaling and root planing.
Scaling & Root Planing
When active periodontal disease is present, a special deep cleaning, called “scaling and root planing,” will be presented as a part of your treatment plan. Scaling and Root Planing is performed under local anesthesia. This is an extension of a regular dental cleaning, called a prophylaxis. The pockets below your gum line are cleaned and rough tooth structure is smoothed. This cleaning helps to reduce the bacteria, inflammation and calculus present in those pockets.
Many patients will be put on a special prescription mouthwash to help reduce bacterial levels. We also may recommend additional dental cleaning aids, such as a proxybrush or electric toothbrush. Ask us about purchasing these products with our in-office discount.
After active periodontal disease is treated, you will need to see your dentist on a regular basis for Periodontal Maintenance appointments. At these appointments, we check your pocket measurements and disease status. Periodontal maintenance allows us to clean in the areas that your toothbrush, proxybrush, and mouth rinse cannot reach: in the pockets under your gums. Proper, continued maintenance is the key to winning the battle against gum disease.
Areas of active disease are treated with cleaning and any necessary adjunctive therapy. Some cases may require direct antibiotic placement into the residual pockets. Dr. Steckelberg will let you know if this is appropriate treatment for you. If necessary, this will be done in-office at your periodontal maintenance appointments.
Gum areas that appear stable are also cleaned and monitored at these frequent visits. Periodontal disease can deteriorate quickly if not routinely monitored and treated. Generally speaking, most patients are seen at least four times yearly for this special cleaning. If the disease remains inactive for several visits, then we will let you know if we can see you three times yearly. Our goal is to avoid additional bone loss and repeated scaling and root planing treatments. Most patients with periodontal disease will need to have dental cleanings 3-4 times yearly, instead of the traditional twice yearly schedule.