Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is the accumulation of dental plaque below the gum line, triggering an ongoing inflammatory response. If left untreated, patients can lose teeth and their overall health can be affected.

“Periodontal disease is the number one reason adults lose teeth,” says Steven R. Daniel, DDS, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, noting smoking and diabetes are two other major contributors to periodontal disease.

Treatment Options

For mild cases, a periodontist will recommend a patient will get a deep cleaning procedure known as scaling and root planning. This will remove plaque and tartar buildup from the roots of the teeth and other areas that brushing and flossing can’t reach.

For more serious cases, periodontists can perform procedures intended to eliminate infection and regenerate bone and gum tissues that have been destroyed by the disease. For receding gums, periodontal plastic surgery can be done to reconstruct or reshape the gum around teeth.

Periodontal disease is the number one reason adults lose teeth.

Dr. Daniel says dental techniques developed in the 1980s have evolved and the same technology used to treat infected dental implants can treat roots exposed by gum recession. “Our surgical toolkit has evolved to include lasers, both for hard and soft tissues, with the goal to accomplish treatment in the least invasive way possible,” he says.

Prevention

Dr. Daniel says doctors need to educate their patients about gum disease and the adverse effects it can have on a patient’s overall health. Research shows there’s a connection between periodontal disease and various systemic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

He advises brushing twice daily and flossing regularly to remove plaque and debris from between the teeth and below the gum line. “Periodontists want people to keep their teeth for a lifetime,” Dr. Daniel says. “Early diagnosis and treatment is key to making that happen.”