Periodontics focuses on your gums and the connective tissues that support your teeth and keep them healthy and stable. Many periodontic treatments aim to treat or prevent gum disease, the top cause of tooth loss among adults in the United States. Dentists skilled in periodontics can also perform gum surgeries and implant placement.
Gum disease (also called periodontal disease or periodontitis) is caused by bacteria that cling to your teeth and along your gum lines, often “hiding” in sticky plaque and hardened tartar deposits. These bacteria release toxins that cause the gum tissue to pull away from the surfaces of your teeth. As the gums pull away, small pockets form that allow the bacteria to move further down the tooth surface. Over time, the bacteria cause infections below the gums and around your tooth roots. As the infection progresses, it causes your teeth to loosen and fall out.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. Often, gum disease in this stage causes few or no symptoms, making it easy to overlook. Having routine checkups and cleanings is the best way to diagnose and treat gingivitis before it turns into a more severe disease that can cause painful symptoms and tooth loss.
In the early stages of gum disease, you might not have any symptoms. But as the disease progresses, symptoms can include:
Mild gum disease and some moderate diseases can be treated with routine teeth cleaning techniques to remove tartar, plaque, and bacteria from the tooth surfaces and from along the gum line. But in more serious gum disease, you may need deep-cleaning techniques called root planing and scaling. These techniques use instruments to reach the bacteria below your gums and around your tooth roots. Antibiotics also may be applied to destroy hard-to-reach bacteria.
The most important things you can do to prevent gum disease are to have regular professional teeth cleanings and to brush and floss regularly. Avoiding sugary foods can also help since gum-disease bacteria also love sweets.