You may think that keeping your teeth clean is your only oral health concern, but maintaining healthy gums is just as important. The same bacteria that can cause decay can damage the soft tissues in your mouth. If plaque (a sticky film of bacteria, mucus, and particulate matter) or tartar (solidified plaque) develops on the enamel that lies beneath your gums, bacteria can infect your soft tissue, causing gum disease. For this reason, Dr. Victor Siegel and our team include periodontal exams and treatment in our full suite of general dentistry offerings. If you suffer from mild to moderate gum disease, we recommend coming to our Rockville practice for a deep cleaning procedure called root planing and scaling. Read on to learn more about periodontal disease and how root planing and scaling can help you maintain your oral health.
The Stages of Gum Disease
Like most infections, periodontal disease can spread and worsen if not diagnosed and treated promptly. The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis, in which bacteria begin to collect under your gums, causing inflammation. People with gingivitis typically have red, swollen gums that bleed when flossing. Fortunately, gingivitis typically clears up with proper oral hygiene, including brushing twice per day and flossing at least once a day. However, if gingivitis is left untreated, the accumulated bacteria under the gums can form pockets and cause the tissue to pull away from the teeth, creating a condition known as periodontitis. During this more serious form of periodontal infection, bacterial toxins can even start attacking important connective tissue and jawbone material, harming your oral structures.
Periodontal Disease By the Numbers
Many people do not realize how prevalent gum infection is among adults. Check out the following statistics about periodontal disease:
- 64 million: The number of Americans over 30 years old suffering from periodontitis, or advanced gum disease.
- 47 percent: The proportion of adult Americans with periodontitis. This number increases to over 70 percent for adults older than 65.
- 56 percent: The proportion of men suffering from gum disease (as compared with 38 percent of women).
- 64 percent: The proportion of smokers who suffer from gum disease, putting them at significantly increased risk than other populations.
How Root Planing and Scaling Can Help
Plaque and tartar allow bacteria to build up under the gums, causing gum disease. Root planing and scaling is a comprehensive cleaning procedure to remove plaque, tartar, and bacteria, and discourage this matter from accumulating in the future. Dr. Siegel typically recommends this treatment to patients with mild to moderate periodontal disease. The procedure is ideal for patients that have not been able to completely eliminate their infections with improved oral hygiene alone.
During root planing and scaling, Dr. Siegel will apply local anesthesia to numb your teeth and gums. If you are particularly concerned about the procedure or suffer from dental anxiety, we can also use sedation dentistry to keep you relaxed and comfortable. Then, we will use special metal instruments or laser tools to scale your teeth, scraping away plaque and tartar. Next, we will plane your teeth, so the root enamel beneath the gums is as smooth as possible; this makes it more difficult for bacteria to gather in this area. Dr. Siegel usually performs root planing and scaling in staged appointments since the process can take several hours. In most cases, removing the plaque and tartar that cause gum disease treats the infection. However, you should implement better oral hygiene habits to maintain your newly clean gums after treatment.
We Can Help You Enjoy a Healthier Smile
To learn more about our soft tissue management strategies or schedule a consultation with Dr. Siegel, please contact our dental practice today. We look forward to helping you care for your teeth and gums.