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Gum disease is fast becoming the major concern in dentistry today. More people are keeping their teeth for a longer time, and the support of the teeth by the gum and bone is crucial. Gum disease is broken down into two main categories: Gingivitis and Periodontitis. These diseases can be further classified as mild, moderate, and severe.
Gingivitis is the earliest form of gum disease, and, if treated at this stage, is 100% reversible. It is caused by plaque accumulating on the teeth near the gum. This plaque contains bacteria which irritate the gums causing redness, swelling and gums which bleed easily when you eat, brush, or floss. Having your teeth cleaned by your dentist or hygienist, followed by daily brushing and flossing is usually all the treatment that is necessary.
The more serious form of gum disease, periodontitis (previously called Pyorrhea) affects not only the gum, but also the bone around the teeth. As plaque accumulates on the teeth, it hardens into calculus which cannot be removed with a toothbrush or floss. As the infection spreads below the gums, deep grooves or pockets form around the tooth. Now the bacteria have a nice home, and they can begin to destroy the bone around the tooth. The disease is like a snowball rolling downhill: it just gets worse and worse until the tooth is lost or a severe, painful gum infection occurs. Treatment for periodontitis varies depending upon the severity of the disease, ranging from several appointments of deep cleaning and scaling to various types of surgery. The goal of treatment is to remove the cause of the disease to preserve what bone remains; it is very difficult to get the bone that has been lost to "regrow," so early detection, treatment, and frequent follow-up care are important for long term success.