Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation in the gums and the surrounding tissues. The early symptoms of periodontal disease include gums that begin to bleed whenever you brush or floss. Over time the disease will progress, causing the gums to begin pulling away from the teeth creating pockets in between the teeth and gums. These periodontal pockets will collect bacteria, increasing the destruction that can be caused by this disease. This is one of the reasons why we take periodontal care so seriously at Sparkle Dental, especially as periodontal disease is known to negatively affect general health.
Why Might I Need Periodontal Care?
You're likely to need periodontal care if you notice certain changes in your mouth. These can include:
Gums that frequently bleed when brushed or flossed
Your gums might look swollen or red, or they might begin to feel tender
You develop persistent bad breath
You notice you have an unpleasant taste in your mouth
Your teeth begin to look longer than before
If you think you might have gum disease it's important to book an appointment for an examination with a dentist at Sparkle Dental as soon as you can. We will be able to examine your teeth and gums, can diagnose the problem and create a treatment plan to help return your gums to health or to manage chronic periodontal disease.
Part of this examination will be to assess the depth of any pockets around your teeth, using a dental probe, as this will help determine the type of treatment required. In a healthy mouth the depth of these pockets will be between 1mm and 3mm. Pocket depths in excess of these figures will need monitoring or periodontal care to reduce these depths.
Treatment for periodontal disease can be nonsurgical or surgical, depending on how far the condition has progressed.
Scaling and Polishing
If you visit your dentist regularly then you probably have your teeth scaled and polished every six months or so. This is where your dental hygienist will use specialised instruments to remove calculus without harming your teeth. This can be done through the use of an ultrasonic instrument that uses vibrations to loosen calculus. Next the loosened calculus can be scraped away with hand scalers. Once your hygienist is satisfied all the tooth surfaces are clean they will polish the teeth, a process that smooths the tooth surfaces removing some of the stains. Scaling and polishing generally tends to be used as a preventative dental care treatment, but might be able to treat very mild cases of periodontal disease which are called gingivitis. It's far more likely your dentist will need to carry out a different type of treatment called scaling and planing.
Scaling and Planing
Scaling and planing deep cleans the gums, helping to remove the bacteria that have built up in the periodontal pockets. The process is somewhat similar to scaling and polishing as your hygienist will use an ultrasonic dental cleaner to help break up the calculus on your teeth before switching to hand scalars to scrape away the loosened debris. The process is much more intense as it's likely they will need to scrape away calculus from tooth root surfaces that have become exposed due to the development of periodontal pockets.
The process of scaling can roughen the tooth surfaces, and this is the reason why it's necessary to plane these surfaces once they have been scaled. Planing smooths the exposed surfaces and is very important as a smooth surface is much more difficult for bacteria to adhere to. Smoothing the surface this will make it much easier to maintain gum health after treatment and it also helps the gums to heal, making it much easier for them to fit more snugly around your teeth, reducing the size of periodontal pockets.
Scaling and root planing isn't normally painful, but if your gums are substantially infected then you might need local anaesthetic to help make the process more comfortable. Most people will be able to return to everyday activities after treatment. Sometimes scaling and planing may be carried out as a standalone treatment, while other times it might be part of an on-going plan to try to treat periodontal disease. If the disease continues to progress than other surgical forms of periodontal care might be required.
Looking after Your Teeth and Gums after Scaling and Planing
It's very important to take good care of your teeth and gums once scaling and planing is completed. While it might not be possible to completely eradicate periodontal disease, proper dental care can help hold it at bay. Twice-daily brushing and flossing once a day will help reduce bacteria in the mouth, minimising the chances of the gums becoming more infected and inflamed. Regular dental check-ups combined with professional cleanings will help keep your gums as healthy as possible. If you are ever unsure of how best to look after your teeth and gums at home then please ask us for practical advice.