Part 3: Symptoms and Treatment Options.

Have you been diagnosed with periodontal (gum) disease? You’re not alone. Recent studies show that the majority of adults over the age of 30 have some form of gum disease. Periodontal disease can range from mild gum inflammation to a serious infection leading to bone damage and eventual tooth loss. Diagnosis and treating the disease early can help prevent tooth loss.

Are there any symptoms?

Periodontal disease often does not have any clear symptoms associated with it. This is why regular dental cleanings and exams are so important. There are, however, some warning signs that can help signal if gum disease is present:

– Gums that bleed when you brush or floss,

– Red, swollen, or tender gums,

– Gums that have pulled away from your teeth,

– Constant bad breath,

– Loose or separating teeth or a change in how your bite feels.

How is periodontal disease diagnosed?

Your dentist or hygienist will examine your gums during your regular dental cleanings and check-ups. A periodontal probe will gently be placed around each tooth to measure the depth of the gum pockets that exists around each tooth. Healthy gums usually have a measurement of 3 millimeters or less with no bleeding. A bleeding pocket and/or one that measures greater than 3 millimeters may indicate disease. Dental x-rays also help identify the disease by showing the amount of bone supporting the teeth. If bone loss is present; periodontal disease may be the cause.

How is periodontal disease treated?

Treatment depends on the severity of the disease. In most cases, the first step is a special cleaning called scaling and root planing (deep cleaning). This step involves cleaning the tooth’s root surfaces to remove calculus allowing your gums to heal and re-attach to your tooth. Your dentist or hygienist may also recommend using a dental laser to help clean the infected areas or medicines to help control the infection, like Arestin®. These scaling and root planing treatments may take multiple appointments. After this treatment is completed, your dentist or hygienist will likely recommend more frequent dental exams and cleanings called periodontal maintenance. Periodontal maintenance is deeper than a “normal” cleaning; it also involves checking the depths of your pockets at every appointment to make sure the disease has not returned. Often, these periodontal maintenance appointments are scheduled every 3-4 months. In severe cases, your dentist or hygienist may refer you directly to a Periodontist (gum specialist) for an evaluation and treatment.

Good oral health is important for good overall health!