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The ABCs of treating periodontal disease

If you've been diagnosed with periodontal disease, the good news is that it often can be treated successfully.

The first nonsurgical step usually involves a special cleaning, called "scaling and root planing," to remove plaque and tartar deposits on the tooth and root surfaces. This procedure helps gum tissue to heal and periodontal pockets to shrink.

At your next visit, the dentist checks the pocket depth to determine the effect of the scaling and root planing. If the periodontal pockets are deep and the supporting bone is lost, surgery may be necessary to help prevent tooth loss. You may be referred to a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in the treatment of diseases that affect the supporting structures of the teeth-the gum and bone tissue-for treatment.

Surgery allows the dentist to access hard-to-reach areas under the gum and along the roots where tartar and plaque have accumulated. Eliminating this bacterial stronghold and regenerating bone and tissue help to reduce pockets and repair damage caused by the progressing disease.

Splints, bite guards or other appliances may also be used to stabilize loose teeth and to aid in the regeneration of tissue during healing. If excessive gum tissue has been lost, a soft-tissue graft may be performed. A soft-tissue graft can reduce further gum recession and bone loss.

Once your periodontal treatment is completed, your dentist will want to see you at regular intervals. Your appointments may alternate between your general dentist and a periodontist. More frequent checkups and cleanings may be needed to keep your gums free of disease.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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