What is gum disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection of the gums and tissues that support your teeth. It is caused most often by the build-up of plaque and tartar when teeth are not routinely brushed and flossed.

There are two major stages of periodontal disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis only affects the gums. It is a mild form of gum disease, and if properly treated, may be reversed. If left untreated, gingivitis turns into periodontitis.

Periodontitis is when bacteria penetrate into the deeper pockets of tissue where bone and membrane support your teeth. The bacteria and infection leads to loss of bone and damage to the areas that support your teeth. Periodontitis can lead to tooth loss and serious health problems.

Risk factors for increased risk of gum disease are, smoking (tobacco), drinking (alcohol), pregnancy, and certain medications. Please check with our dentists or your prescribing physician to determine if your medications can impact your oral health.

Research shows that approximately half of all American adults over the age of 30 have mild, moderate or severe gum disease, which is the leading cause of adult tooth loss. It is also possible to have gum disease without experiencing any symptoms. The best way to avoid or manage gum disease is by practicing good oral hygiene (brushing and flossing), visiting your dentist regularly and getting routine cleanings.

Type of Cleaning:

The type of cleaning recommended is usually based on your gingival (gum) pocket measurement obtained from your initial exam

Stages of Gum Disease and Pockets Depth

Cleaning (Routine)

If your gums are healthy:

  • Tartar is minimal
  • Gum pocket measurements are between 1-3mm

A routine cleaning would be needed. We will remove any tartar/bacteria around your teeth, making sure your gums stay healthy. Anesthetic will not be needed. A routine cleaning and a dental check-up is recommended every 6 months by the American Dental Association for good oral health.

Full Mouth Debridement

If there is heavy tartar around your teeth, but your gum pocket measurement is still between 1-3mm, a full mouth debridement may be needed. We will remove the heavy tartar build up around your teeth and gums. Anesthetic is rarely needed.

Deep Cleaning (Scaling and Root Planning)

A deep cleaning is needed if there is mild to moderate periodontitis; where gum pocket measurements are 4mm to 6mm. It is almost certain that tartar and bacteria is trapped deep inside the pocket of your gums because a tooth brush will not be able thoroughly clean a pocket that is that deep. As a result of tartar and bacteria being trapped inside, there can be bone loss and infection. A deep cleaning is recommended to scale off all the tartar and smooth your roots so it will be harder for tartar to stick to the roots of your teeth. Anesthetic is recommended to numb that area because removing tartar that is 4mm to 6mm deep may be painful and uncomfortable.

Antibiotic Irrigation

When gum pockets are deep, your dentist may recommended injecting antibiotics into the gum tissue to kill any bacteria that is deep inside the gum pockets. Bacteria that is not removed can lead to infection and bone loss

Osseous Surgery Pocket Reduction

Moderate to severe periodontitis is when your gum pockets measurements are higher than 7mm. This means that the gum pocket is extremely deep, that even a deep cleaning cannot take away all the tartar and bacteria that is causing the infection around your gums. The prognosis or long term medical outlook for the health of your teeth is usually “guarded” or “poor” without surgery to reduce the depth of the gum pockets. We hope that we can get a “fair” prognosis with surgical intervention to reduce the pockets to a level that can be maintained, so you won’t lose your teeth from gum disease.
This procedure is usually performed by a dentist, who is a specialist of the gums called a periodontist. Dr. Sean Sakhai is our periodontist who will be performing this procedure for you. As with any procedure, we make sure that you are numb and won’t experience any pain. During this procedure, a local anesthetic is applied. The gum tissue is folded back to expose deeper tissues. Irregular surfaces of the damaged bone may need to be smoothed to expose otherwise hidden areas of bacteria. The harmful bacteria are removed. Gum tissue is then closed and sutured in place. We hope that this will procedure will reduce the gum pocket to a healthy and maintainable level.This procedure is performed by our periodontist, Dr. Sean Sakhai who is a specialist in the gums of the mouth. A specialist has 3 years more advanced training than a general dentist.

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