Periodontal diseases (also known as gum diseases) are infections of the gum and bone supporting the teeth.

If periodontal problems are not treated, they can become severe and may eventually lead to tooth loss. Periodontal diseases are often painless and you may not be aware that you have a problem until your gums and bone are seriously damaged. The good news is that periodontal diseases often can be treated in the early stages with a treatment to clean your teeth called scaling and root planing .

Periodontal disease is caused by plaque, a film made up of bacteria that attaches to teeth and gums. The bacteria in plaque cause irritation of the tissues that support your teeth. This irritation can lead to chronic inflammation, bleeding, and infection that can destroy your gum and bone tissue.

Plaque that remains on the teeth for a time may harden (calcify) into a rough, porous deposit called tartar, or calculus. Tartar by itself does not cause disease, but ti typically allows more plaque to form and makes it more difficult to remove plaque that can thrive on, in or near the tartar. This tartar can only be removed in the dental office, thus, regular visits to the dentist are necessary to remove plaque and calculus in hard to remove places.

The first step in treating periodontal disease usually involves a special cleaning, called scaling and root planing . This is a method of treating periodontal disease when pockets are greater than 3 mm. Scaling is used to remove plaque and tartar beneath the gum line. A local anesthetic is usually given to make the procedure more comfortable. Using instruments called scalers plaque and tartar are removed down to the bottom of each periodontal pocket. The tooth's root surfaces are then smoothed and planed to remove bacterial contamination. This procedure helps gum tissue to heal and pockets to shrink. It also makes it more difficult for plaque to accumulate along the root surfaces.

Once scaling and root planing is complete, another appointment will be made within a few weeks to re-evaluate healing and improvement of your gums. Many patients do not require any further active treatment, only preventative care. Maintaining good oral hygiene at home and continued follow-up by your dentist or periodontist is essential to help prevent periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring.