What Is Periodontal Disease?
When most people think of a beautiful smile, they think about white teeth free of decay. However, your gums are equally important to your oral health, both aesthetically and functionally. For this reason, periodontal (gum) disease is a serious oral health issue that can drastically affect your smile. At Thomas P. Rafferty, DDS, we specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease because we want our patients to maintain a healthy, dazzling smile!
The first and most common form of periodontal disease is known as gingivitis. This beginning stage of the disease is characterized by gums that are swollen and red. Unfortunately, the symptoms of gingivitis are subtle and progress slowly. If you suffer from gingivitis, your gums may also bleed easily during brushing and flossing.
Luckily, gingivitis is easy to treat and reverse with improvements to your daily oral hygiene routine. Regular flossing can get your gums back to a healthier state relatively fast. If gingivitis is left unchecked, it will ultimately progress to the second stage of gum disease, periodontitis.
Periodontitis is a much more serious and detrimental form of gum disease. At this stage, your gums will begin to recede, and the infection will spread to your connective ligaments and underlying bone. Periodontitis also causes deep periodontal pockets, spaces between your teeth, and gums that can trap food debris and bacteria.
Eventually, periodontitis will cause irreversible damage to your tissues, increasing your risk of tooth loss. Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in the United States.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
Much like tooth decay, periodontal disease is caused by the harmful bacteria found in plaque, the sticky biofilm on our teeth. When plaque is allowed to build up, our immune system produces toxins to combat bacteria. Unfortunately, these toxins also target healthy tissues, causing the infection we refer to as periodontal disease.
The infection starts with the gums. It then spreads to all tissues that support your teeth. Without treatment, it will likely cause tooth loss for one or more teeth.
Treating Advanced Periodontal Disease
As a periodontist, Dr. Thomas Rafferty specializes in treatments designed to prevent or reverse the effects of periodontal disease. While some of the damage to your tissues may be irreversible, our treatments can still get your periodontal health back on track. One of the most common treatments for advanced periodontal disease is a procedure known as a scaling and root planing.
A scaling and root planing is similar to a conventional cleaning. During the procedure, we use an ultrasonic scaler to eliminate plaque and tartar (calcified plaque) from the surfaces of your teeth. Next, we smooth out any rough surfaces on your roots to prevent plaque, tartar, and bacteria from re-adhering below the gum tissues. This process is extensive and may require more than one appointment, depending on the severity of your periodontal disease.
After your scaling and root planing, your gums should return to a pink, healthy state. Healthy gums also fit snugly around each tooth. To prevent a reoccurrence, be sure to implement a strong oral hygiene that includes daily flossing.
Schedule Your Appointment Today!
Maintaining proper periodontal health is one of the best ways to protect your smile! Call (978) 720-9009 to schedule your appointment today!