How it starts . . .
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. When gums are inflamed, they bleed easily when flossing or brushing, or even biting into an apple. Many of us have experienced this from time to time. It is easy to treat –if it’s just in one or two places, paying attention to correct and thorough brushing and flossing will remove bacteria-laden plaque and the gums will settle quickly. If it is widespread, then perhaps a ‘dentist clean’ to remove hard tartar build-up is the best plan of action.
Gingivitis responds well to early treatment
Left untreated, however, it can progress. When severe it is known as periodontitis, or periodontal disease. Now the inflammation is not limited to the gingiva (the gums), but involves the root lining and periodontal ligaments as well.
Swelling of the gums occurs with ongoing gingivitis, along with destruction of the fibres attaching the gum to the root of the tooth. The gums pull away (or recede) and pockets form between the loosened gum and tooth root. These deep spaces fill with the bacteria resident in our mouths, and also trap food particles which the bacteria feed on. By this stage, teeth may feel loose and if not treated, teeth can fall out. Gum disease is a major cause of preventable early tooth loss. Treatment is more involved at this stage, and involves specialised techniques by a dental professional.
Treating periodontal disease
Root scaling: Special dental tools are used to reach into the pockets and carefully remove the built-up plaque and tartar and all their bacteria. Local anaesthetic makes this a painless procedure.
Root planning: the action of the bacteria roughens the root of the tooth as it loosens the gum. Planing, as the name suggests, involves smoothing out the root and promotes the regrowth and reattachment of the gums. Reducing the size of the pockets is the first step to curing gum disease and preventing tooth loss.
Winning the fight against periodontitis requires the help and systematic treatment from your dentist and/or hygienist.