Periodontal (gum) disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults, affecting three out of four people over the age of 35. In fact, more than half of all adults over age 18 already have periodontal disease in its early stages. This inflammatory disease attacks the gums, bone, and other supporting structures of the teeth.
Gingivitis is the earliest form of periodontal disease, occurring when plaque accumulates on the teeth near the gums. The gums become inflamed, causing redness and swelling around one or more teeth. As the disease progresses, the gums tend to bleed easily. If detected and treated at this stage, the gingival tissue will return to normal.
Treatment of periodontal disease depends on how far the disease has progressed. In the early stages, the dentist may simply remove plaque, calculus and the inflamed tissues from under the gums. This deep cleaning procedure involves scaling (the removal of calculus deposits on the teeth) and root planning (polishing the root surfaces to promote healing and reattachment of the gum tissue). If the disease is diagnosed in the early stages, curettage may also be used. Curettage removes the soft tissue found in the pockets and helps the gums to heal.