What is Periodontitis?

Periodontitis involves the supporting structures of the teeth including the gum tissue and the bone. It results in bone loss around the teeth because of your body’s reaction to bacteria [plaque] that gets under the gum tissue and hardens on the root surface. We call this hardened plaque, calculus. The reaction that occurs in your mouth is similar to having a splinter in your finger. When a splinter is present, your body starts an inflammatory reaction that causes redness and swelling. It is trying to work the splinter out. A similar reaction occurs in your mouth because your body is trying to protect the bone from the infection. Since your body cannot remove the calculus it starts removing [resorbing] bone from the area of infection. The result is less bone to support your teeth. There are several components that accelerate this process including genetics, smoking, tooth position, systemic disease, etc.

Can Periodontitis be cured?

Periodontitis is a chronic disease similar to diabetes and heart disease in that we cannot cure it. However, like these other diseases, we can stabilize and maintain a level of health. This is done through the help of our office, your general dentist, and most importantly you.

How do you treat this disease?

The first step is to remove the deposits [calculus] on the root surface that are stimulating the infection. We call this process scaling and root planing. Removing the plaque and calculus from the root surfaces will allow your tissue to become healthy again and form a tighter collar around your teeth. This is not a surgical procedure; we are cleaning in a space that already exists. Local anesthetic is used so that you are comfortable during the procedure. The instruments used are similar to those used during a regular cleaning.

How will I feel after the treatment?

You may have some sensitivity [generally cold] of the teeth that lasts a few weeks. Also you may have some tenderness the first day, but in general your mouth should begin to heal and feel better.

What happens after the treatment?

Dr. Mark  Edwards or Dr. Angela Wilson will see you 4-6 weeks after the treatment for a short examination. At this appointment the doctor will determine how your mouth responded to the treatment. The doctor will then discuss with you any other recommendations to help stabilize the disease. The most important recommendation will be your maintenance [cleaning] interval. If you have periodontitis, then your mouth is more sensitive to plaque: therefore, an increased cleaning interval will help maintain the level of health that has been achieved.  Most patients need to have their teeth cleaned every 2-4 months. The doctors will give a recommendation that is specific to you. These supportive periodontal maintenance appointments [cleanings] are usually alternated between our office and your general dentist’s office.

Why do I need to be seen at both offices?

It is important for you to be seen at both offices because here we will focus on keeping your periodontal disease stable. If we detect changes in measurements, then we can plan to focus treatment on these areas before they have further breakdown. At your dentist’s office, they will focus on the health of your teeth and plan treatment as needed, specifically focusing on dental caries [decay], occlusion, and restorations that may be necessary. We will send a letter to your dentist each time you are here so that we can work together to give you optimal care. The goal is a seamless, team approach to maintain your mouth at an optimal level of heath.

How much will this treatment cost? Does insurance cover periodontal treatment?

The doctors will discuss your specific treatment needs and will review the fees with you before you leave. Also, we will submit an estimate to your insurance company so that you know what your portion is prior to any treatment being performed. Normally it takes 4-6 weeks to get this estimate back from your insurance company. Our office will call and discuss this estimate with you once it is received.

I have my teeth cleaned every 6 months at my dentists office. Why do I have this problem?

Periodontitis is a chronic disease and like most chronic diseases, it generally is silent with regards to symptoms you would notice. Active bone loss is generally confined to a certain site on a tooth or teeth. It progresses in a cycle where bone loss may occur over a 1or 2 day period, in a 75-90 day cycle. You have been referred because your general dentist feels your overall oral care is better managed with a team effort between their office and a periodontal office.