Our teeth are held in our head by bone and gum tissue, or the periodontium. Gum disease is the process of our natural bacteria in our mouths destroying this supportive tissue. Proper home care, brushing 2-3 times a day, flossing once a day, and regular dental visits for cleanings, will prevent gum disease. Unfortunately 80% of Americans don’t floss, many don’t brush 2 times a day, and many do not see the dentist regularly. This results in our own body starting an inflammatory reaction that destroys of the attachment of the gums to the roots of the teeth, forming what we call pockets, followed by osteoclasts or bone eating cells, permanently dissolving the bone holding our teeth in our head.
There are four stages of gum disease, each one requiring more aggressive treatment to prevent bone and tooth loss.
Stage I or “gingivitis: You have probably heard the term on Listerine commercials . There is no permanent damage at this point. This stage is reversible with a professional cleaning followed by proper home care.
Stage II periodontitis: There has been permanent attachment loss of both the gum and bone tissue. This requires a more aggressive treatment called scaling and root planning. It is accomplished using anesthetic and the roots of the teeth are planed. This is followed by three month perio maintenance for the rest of a patients lifetime. This is because deeper pockets are no longer reachable with your brush and floss, and more frequent visits are necessary. If this is accompanied with proper home care there will be no advancement to the next stage.
Stage III Periodontitis: Pocket depths are greater than 6 mm and we begin to detect mobility of the teeth. This typically requires gum surgery, either with scalpel or laser, or possibly LANAP (laser assisted new attachment procedure) to save teeth.
Stage IV periodontitis: There is now acute infection and often tooth loss is inevitable without drastic measures