Periodontal disease, if left untreated, causes progressive bone loss around teeth, looseness of the teeth and ultimate tooth loss. Bacterial plaque, which calcifies to form tartar, is one of the early signs of this problem. Other symptoms may include the following:
- Bleeding of gums or occasional redness while brushing teeth, using dental floss or biting into hard food.
- Occasional gum swellings that reappear from time to time.
- Bad breath (halitosis) and a constant metallic taste in the mouth.
- The apparent lengthening of teeth associated with gingival recession.
- Deep pockets between the teeth and gums.
- Loose teeth, especially in the later stages.
This disease affects the tissues that support and anchor the teeth, and is usually seen as a chronic inflammatory disease. Gingivitis, an inflammation of the outermost soft tissue of the gums, is a distinct form of the disease. However, the most serious form is adult periodontitis.
A less common form is localized juvenile periodontitis, and is seen mainly in young people.
Another form of the disease commonly found in young people is acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis. Pericoronitis is a condition found in children whose molars are in the process of erupting through the gum. Herpetic gingivostomatitis, which is fairly common in children, is an inflammation of the gums and mouth caused by the herpes simplex virus.
Gingiva, or gums, support the teeth. A tooth’s root is fastened to its sockets by fibers called periodontal ligaments. The gums do not attach to the teeth as tightly as one may think.
V-shaped shallow gaps called sulcus exist between the teeth and the gums. Periodontal disease affects this gap. The tissues supporting the tooth eventually break down, once disease is present.
One of the aims of treatment is to catch and manage the progression of the bacteria that cause gingivitis and periodontal problems.
Treatment such as scaling and root planing involve the removal of the irritants and bacterial deposits that have collected above and below the gum line in the periodontal pockets. Scaling and root planing is done in two to four visits, most of the time.