The difference between periodontal disease and periodontitis should be clarified before continuing. Periodontal disease is a broad term that encompasses all sorts of conditions of the gums and supporting bone, including gingivitis and periodontal abscesses. Periodontitis is a severe form of periodontal disease, which involves bone loss around the teeth.
This is important to understand because bone is necessary to anchor the teeth into the jawbone. If left untreated, bone loss will continue until the teeth eventually become loose and need to be removed.
Many patients have asked, "Why do I need to receive treatment if my teeth don't hurt?" Periodontitis involves very gradual destruction of the bone around the teeth, so most of the time it doesn't cause pain. In fact, the gums may appear completely normal, pink, and healthy, even though bone loss has occurred.
This explains why the dentist or periodontist observes a "deep gum pocket". When a measuring device, called a probe, is inserted into the gum pocket, it essentially measures the distance from the gum tissue to the bone. So if the gums appear normal but there is bone loss, then the probe will measure deeper than gum pockets with healthy bone levels.
Other patients have asked, "Why do I need to have this loose tooth extracted if it isn't painful? Can't I just leave it in until it falls out on its own?"
The problem with leaving a loose tooth with extreme bone loss is that the infection that lead to that tooth's bone loss could lead to infection and bone loss of the adjacent teeth.
The key to avoiding having the teeth removed is to receive treatment as soon as periodontal disease is recognized. When caught in the early stages, periodontitis can be managed by a "deep cleaning", as known as "scaling and root planing" of the teeth roots.
But if the bone loss and infection are more extensive, then surgical modalities are employed.
The goal of surgery is to reduce the gum pocket to a depth that will allow proper cleaning of the root surface.
This is accomplished by removing the infected gum tissue, re-contouring the damaged bone, and re-positioning the gum tissue.
In certain cases. the bone loss is better treated by placing a bone graft (described in another section). As long as the teeth and their roots can be adequately cleansed, bone loss and infection will not re-occur.
The advantages of periodontal treatment are numerous, including healthy gums, fresher breath, a beautiful smile, and more self-confidence. Your body's overall health may also benefit from reducing any periodontal infection. Contact your general dentist or periodontist for more information on how periodontal therapy can add years of life to your teeth!