Periodontal (Gum) Disease

So what is gum disease?

First dentists usually call gum disease periodontal disease; perio=around, dontal=tooth.

  • Bacteria: the normal microscopic germs in our mouth that can cause gingivitis and sometimes trigger bone loss.
  • Plaque: is a thin mixture of food and bacteria coating part of the tooth
  • Gum (periodontal) pockets: the vertical measurement from the top of the gum tissue down to where the gums attach to the tooth.  A pocket  depth of more than 4-5mm is difficult to keep clean on a day to day basis.  A deeper pocket also may mean there is bone loss occurring.
  • Gingivitis: red, swollen gum tissue that bleeds easily when you brush or floss.  Caused by the irritation of bacteria.
  • Bone loss: seen on your X-rays; there is less bone around a tooth compared to when it came in as a child.
  • Deep cleaning: dental name is scaling and root planing.  This is almost always done after making sure the teeth and gums are numb.  It will remove all the debris around the tooth, above and below the gums, and smooth the root surface.  This type of cleaning is usually recommended when there are deep pockets that bleed.
  • Gum (periodontal) disease;  there are two key requirements for the diagnosis of gum disease.  1) gum pockets that are 4-5mm or deeper and that bleed easily and 2) evidence on the x-rays that there is bone loss.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. You may have bleeding gums due to plaque build up, but if there is no deep pocketing and no bone loss, there is no disease. We want you to brush and floss your teeth more so your gums don't bleed, but there is no disease.

If you have either deep pockets (4-5mm or deeper with bleeding) and there is bone loss evident on the X-rays, you have the initial stages of gum disease. The first step to treat gum disease is to do a deep cleaning.
The first step is to do a deep cleaning of the area. Afterwards we usually prescribe a oral antibiotic rinse to swish with for a couple of weeks and then have you back to see how the areas responded to cleaning. If the pockets improve, great. If not we'll need to talk about coming in every 3-4 months to see if we can stabilize the bone loss, or consider a referral to a periodontist, and dentist who specializes in treating gum disease.
  • Genetic: a family history of tooth loss due to gum disease.
  • Smoker: there is a strong correlation between smoking and gum disease.
  • Diabetes: people who are insulin-dependent diabetics have trouble with infections, and can develop problems with bone loss.
  • Strength of immune system: when someone suffers from frequent illness, such as 4-5 colds per year, is more susceptible to gum disease.
  • And no, gum disease is not contagious from person to person. It's the bacteria that live in our own mouth that cause the problem.
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Treating & Preventing Gum Disease in West Des Moines, Iowa

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