Periodontal disease or gum disease is an infection of the gums that starts out as plaque, an opaque film on the teeth that hardens to form tartar. As tartar accumulates, it harbors bacteria that attacks the soft tissue of the gums surrounding the teeth. This is the early stage of gum disease known as Gingivitis. Pregnant women are at an increased risk of developing pregnancy gingivitis so routine dental hygiene visits are key if you are expecting.
Left untreated, gingivitis will become Periodontitis which ultimately destroys the tissue surrounding your teeth AND the bone that holds your teeth in place. Except for bad breath and gums that bleed during brushing or flossing, there are very few early warning signs. Periodontal disease advances silently, often without pain, and before you know it, you are losing your teeth and you don't know why.
Tooth loss is only the most obvious indicator of periodontal disease and doesn't appear until the end stages of the disease process. Scientific research has discovered links between periodontal (gum) disease and stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. When your gums become diseased from bacteria, your entire immune system is weakened due to trying to fight off the infection that can be easily removed with a routine dental cleaning.
The treatment for periodontal disease can be performed in the dental office with a procedure called scaling and root planing. The difference between scaling and root planing is simple. Scaling is the removal of the dental tartar from the tooth surface, while root planing is the process of smoothing the root surfaces and removing the infected tooth structure. Scaling and root planing is a non-surgical procedure; however the dentist will use an anesthetic to numb the areas of the mouth to be treated for complete comfort while the hygienist removes the tartar and bacteria from below the gum tissue and the infected root surfaces. Scaling and root planing or a deep cleaning is usually broken down into one or two sections of the mouth per appointment. This allows for adequate healing time and reduces the time for each appointment.