Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is a very serious disease that can result in tooth loss, but it is generally painless, so you might not know you even have it.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, consequences of this disease may include not only permanent tooth loss but a higher risk of stroke and heart attack. Gum disease is silently affecting over 50 million Americans, most of whom are not seeking treatment because they are unaware there is even a problem.
The main cause of periodontal disease is bacterial plaque, the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. This plaque causes an infection in your gums which results in them becoming swollen, red, sensitive and tender. This condition is known as gingivitis. Surprisingly, gingivitis affects more than 50% of the population and if left untreated it will advance to periodontitis, causing the gums to separate from the teeth and form pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums). When the bacterial plaque enters into these pockets, the area becomes infected. Although there isn’t much pain associated with gum disease, the consequences are devastating and include an unsightly smile, in which the gums pull back from the teeth, offensive bad breath, gums that become infected and bleed, teeth that become loose and fall out, and even an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Treatment for this problem in the early stages is through a procedure known as Scaling and root planning. This is a special type of deep cleaning performed by the dentist or hygienist. This procedure removes plaque and tartar from below your gum line. This controls the growth of harmful bacteria and helps gums reattach firmly to the teeth. If left untreated, the damage that occurs may become so sever that surgery becomes necessary to treat the problem.