Perio is a Greek prefix meaning “around.” Odon means “teeth.” Together, the word periodontics refers to the treatment of the parts of your mouth around your teeth. These parts are just as important to dental health as the teeth themselves.
One of the most common—and, unfortunately, most easily acquired—problems found in the periodontal area is gum disease.
What is Gum Disease?
Our mouths collect bacteria in a biofilm called plaque. Day in and day out, it grows over our teeth, despite our best efforts. Daily brushing and flossing can disturb this bacteria and rinse it away, keeping the teeth and gums healthy.
However, if this oral hygiene is poorly executed or neglected altogether, the plaque sticks. It irritates the gums and eventually hardens into a mineralized form known as tartar. Once this happens, the tartar cannot be dealt with at home. A professional cleaning is necessary to remove it.
Inconveniently, tartar also makes a particularly good sticking place for even more plaque, and therefore even more irritation. When left unchecked, this gum irritation develops into gum disease. There are two major stages in its development.
Gingivitis | This is the first stage of gum disease. Its symptoms are, unfortunately, often ignored or dismissed as insignificant. If you have any of the following, you may be suffering from gingivitis:
- Bleeding or tender gums.
- Chronic bad breath.
- Loose teeth.
- Receding gums.
While relatively mild, when taken alone, gingivitis must be treated as soon as possible. If it is not, it will develop into the much more severe stage known as periodontitis.
Periodontitis | Periodontitis is the result of gingivitis that has been left to spread deeper beneath the gum line and down into the bone. The toxins excreted by the spreading plaque eventually inflame the gums and bone so much that it begins to recede, causing the teeth to come loose, and potentially fall out.
When discovered and treated early enough, deep cleaning and scaling can reverse the effects of gum disease. This is simply the process of removing the plaque and tartar from its footholds, allowing the areas to properly heal.
If gum disease advances too far, however, teeth may still be at risk, once the cleaning and scaling has cleared everything out. Surgeries or gum grafts may be other treatment options available to you. In the most severe of cases, teeth will be lost completely.
Careful daily hygiene and regular dental checkups can prevent this worst case scenario. It’s never too early to see us about your dental health.
See Us About Your Cleaning
If your gums are tender or swollen, don’t wait to call us. Catching gum disease as early as possible will save your teeth from severe discomfort and possible loss. Talk to us today about your symptoms, and we’ll fit you in for a cleaning.