Plaque is a sticky substance that adheres to the tooth structure and is full of bacteria. Over time, plaque becomes calcified (hardens) and at this stage, it becomes what is called calculus (tartar). Plaque and calculus are actually irritants to the tissues of your mouth. The reaction of your body to the irritants and the subsequent gum inflammation, gum recession, bleeding and eventual bone loss around the teeth are what is called periodontal (gum) disease. The earliest stage of periodontal disease is called gingivitis (which is reversible) and is characterized by bleeding gums, especially when one brushes and flosses. If the disease is not addressed, it will progress to periodontitis, which is far more destructive and is characterized by further gum deterioration, bone loss, and ultimately tooth loss.
Cleaning (scaling) your teeth is the most common form of treatment for periodontal disease. Scaling removes calculus (also called tartar) and plaque from the tooth surface above and below the gum line. When the amount of plaque and calculus to remove is extensive, the dentist will numb the area to make the procedure comfortable for you. A combination of ultrasonic and hand instruments are used in the procedure. The ultrasonic instruments remove the large deposits of plaque and calculus. Hand instruments are then used to remove any remaining tartar and ensure all surfaces of the crown and root are clean and free of bacteria. Sensitivity and soreness may be present a few days following treatment and usually can be relieved with over-the-counter pain relievers and toothpastes for sensitive teeth.
A follow-up visit is usually scheduled a few weeks following treatment to check the improvement of your gums, and regular intervals (3-6 months typically) thereafter to monitor the disease. The goals are to eliminate the active inflammation caused by bacteria and reduce the gum pockets around the teeth so they cannot trap plaque or calculus thus maintaining the present bone height around the teeth.
Periodontal or gum disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. It is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults; more than 75% of North Americans over the age of 35 have some form of gum disease. Good oral hygiene and regular dental examinations are essential in prevention and early detection of gum disease – which sometimes develops without any warning signs. Gingivitis (gum disease) and periodontitis (gum and bone disease) are the two main forms of periodontal disease also called gum disease or pyorrhea.