What is Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is infection of the teeth’s supporting structures and may include gums, bone, root surfaces, and ligaments. Symptoms include:

• Gums that are red, swollen, and often bleed
• Unpleasant taste and bad breath
• Teeth that have shifted
• Teeth that appear longer
• Loose teeth

Pain is usually not a symptom until it is too late to save the tooth. Therefore, periodontal disease often goes untreated.

How Do You Treat Periodontal Disease?
Treatment of the disease requires disinfection by cleaning deposits from the tooth's root of tartar, bacteria, and its toxins through a procedure called root planing and scaling. This is performed comfortably with local anesthesia. For some patients, these measures, followed by redirected home care and consistent maintenance appointments, may be a complete treatment. For others, periodontal surgery may be necessary to repair areas of destruction and save teeth.

What is Periodontal Maintenance? 
Periodontal maintenance includes procedures that a patient receives after periodontal disease treatment to prevent further disease, minimize its progression, and reduce tooth loss. It includes: 

• Removal of bacteria from periodontal pockets around the teeth
• Limited root planing
• Scaling and polishing
• Radiographic examination of the teeth and bone
• Gum and bone examination
• Review and assistance with home care concerns
• Recommendation of oral care products

How Does Periodontal Maintenance Differ From Hygiene Maintenance (Regular Cleanings)?
Hygiene maintenance, what patients may call “cleanings,” includes the removal of plaque and tartar or calculus deposits by scaling and polishing the tooth crown—the portion of the tooth covered by enamel above or at the gumline. This type of hygiene treatment is by itself insufficient for patients who have undergone periodontal disease treatment to clean root surfaces and areas below the gumline where bone loss and infection were present.

How Often Should Patients Receive Periodontal Maintenance?
Generally, every three months. It takes the bacteria that cause gum disease 10-12 weeks to repopulate, organize, and cause infection and bone destruction. Removing these bacteria on a regular schedule can prevent or reduce infection and bone loss and help to maintain teeth over a patient’s lifetime. 

Does Insurance Cover Periodontal Maintenance?
Dental insurance typically pays for two regular and two or four periodontal maintenance sessions per year at approximately 80% of the cost. This depends on the policy your employer has selected. This is allowed in order to minimize the progression of periodontal disease and resulting tooth loss, which can lead to more extensive and expensive dental care.  

Please contact Judy L. Husen, DDS if you have questions or concerns about periodontal disease, periodontal treatment, or dental implants.

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