Dental Prophylaxis: Treating Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease, also called gum disease, is an infection of the hard and soft tissues that hold the teeth in place.  The mildest form of gum disease, found in over 75% of the population, is called gingivitis.

What Causes Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease?

This inflammatory process is confined to the gums, and is usually caused by accumulation of a bacteria-laden plaque biofilm on the teeth.  The plaque can cause the gum tissues to become red, and sometimes swollen and tender.  Over time, this plaque biofilm becomes calcified due to minerals in saliva, causing a hard substance called “calculus” or “tarter” to form around the base of the teeth.

Treatment for Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease

Dental prophylaxis, sometimes called a prophy, is generally indicated by Dr. Beck and Dr. Morrow as a treatment option for patients who have gingivitis and small amounts of plaque and tarter above the gumline.

In some patients, depending on many factors, gingivitis can progress to more severe forms of periodontal disease, specifically periodontitis.  The plaque biofilm and tarter can progress over time deep into the gum pockets surrounding the teeth, causing bone loss, tooth mobility, sensitivity, inflammation, and in severe cases, loss of the teeth themselves.  Periodontitis usually needs to be treated with a more thorough type of dental cleaning called scaling and root planing, which will be discussed in a future article.

Preventing Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease

Risk factors for developing gingivitis include poor oral hygiene, tobacco use, systemic diseases, pregnancy, poor nutrition, and certain medications.  To prevent the progression of gingivitis to more severe forms of periodontal diseases, such as periodontitis, all patients are encouraged to brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste with a soft-bristled or electric toothbrush.  Daily flossing is also very important to remove plaque between the teeth.

Visiting Dr. Beck, Dr. Morrow, and the hygiene staff at South Waterfront Dental for regular cleanings every 3-6 months, depending on the disease severity, is recommended to remove the hard tarter that toothbrushes are unable to remove. Please see Dr. Beck, Dr. Morrow, or the hygiene staff at South Waterfront Dental if you have any questions about gingivitis, periodontal disease, or anything else relating to your dental health.