Non-Surgical Periodontal Treatment – An Explanation

Have you ever been told that your gums bleed? That you have gum “pockets” and tissue break down? Has your hygienist suggested a deep cleaning or “Periodontal Treatment?” What does it all mean and how can you help your oral and overall health? Here are the facts:

The main culprit of gum disease (periodontal disease) is bacteria. It is a constant daily battle to brush and floss the bad bacteria off of the teeth and gums to prevent the tissue from breaking down.

Any time harmful bacteria is allowed to sit on the gum tissue for a period of time, the body’s immune system attempts to fight it off. This body response is called inflammation. Everyone’s body reacts differently, and to different degrees. Genetic and environmental factors also play a role. (For example if you have an auto immune disease or if you are a smoker).

A healthy body may be able to fight the bacteria with no incurring damage. But usually, depending on the individual immune response, when inflammation occurs, tissue damage will follow. The gum and supporting tooth structures are damaged from “friendly fire” while antibodies battle the bad bacteria.

When there is active infection of the gums, the body’s inflammatory response weakens the tissue and it bleeds more easily. This is the first sign of infection, and thus why dental professionals look for bleeding as a sign of periodontal disease.

If the infection stays in the gums long enough, the bacteria can travel to the bone and supporting tooth structures and begin the damage process there as well. When bone is lost, there are gum pockets created around the tooth, making it even harder to keep those areas clean.

What can be done to stop the progression of gum disease? The hygienist and patient work together as a team to keep bacteria off of the teeth. With non-surgical periodontal treatment, the doctor numbs the areas to be cleaned. This enables the hygienist to clean and disinfect the gum pockets that tooth brush bristles and floss cannot reach. With proper homecare, this non-invasive treatment is often very effective.

What do we do differently? In addition to cleaning the teeth and gums, we coach patients to properly remove the plaque on a daily basis. We individualize our “coaching” and tailor homecare techniques to meet the specific needs and challenges of each patient.

Why do periodontal patients need to come back more frequently for cleanings (Periodontal Maintenance)? After the bacterial community is removed from the pockets of the gums, it takes approximately 90 days for the bacteria to recolonize and start the damage process. This occurs in areas that the patient cannot reach with a toothbrush or floss. We also find that coaching our patients towards new healthy behavior often requires more frequent sessions to help them control the plaque.

The joint effort of the hygienist and the patient can stop gum disease in its tracks.