Diagnosis Treatment Maintenance
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, also known as periodontal
disease, is a bacterial infection in the
gums and jawbone that support your teeth.
As the infection begins, the gums separate
from the teeth forming pockets, which
trap more bacteria, leading to a worsening
of the infection.
How is gum disease diagnosed?
First, we look at the gums and assess their color, contour, and
consistency. Red, swollen, and spongy gums are signs of infection.
Second, we measure the depths of the gum pockets around the teeth
at six critical locations for each tooth. We are supposed to have
shallow pockets around our teeth, and they should not be deeper
than 3mm (1/8 inch). Just as you floss below your gumline, we
place a small ruler below your gumline and measure the gum pocket
depth. The entire process takes 5 minutes and is very gentle.
Third, we look at your x-rays and measure the amount of bone loss
gum disease has caused around each tooth.
Whom does gum disease affect?
75% of adults get gum disease. Gum disease
is the most common disease among adults
today. It is more common than cancer,
heart disease, or stroke combined. Gum
disease is the leading cause of tooth
loss in adults.
What are the dangers of gum disease?
Gum disease dangers range in scale from
the early stages of bad breath and unsightly
swollen or bleeding gums, to the advanced
stages of tooth loss and dangerous infection.
In addition to the effects it can have
on your teeth and gums, numerous studies
have shown gum disease to be related to
the risk of stroke, heart disease, premature
birth and low birth weight babies, osteoporosis,
respiratory infections, and diabetes.
How can gum disease be prevented?
While gum diseases are very common and have many adverse affects
on your health, the good news is that they usually can be prevented
if you dont have it, and controlled if you do have it. A
simple home care routine of brushing and flossing complimented
by regular professional cleanings can provide you with a lifetime
of healthy teeth and gums. If you already have gum disease, Dr.
Lockwood and your hygienist will prescribe for you a special routine
that will place you on your way to a healthy recovery. Your teeth
can last a lifetime, and with special attention they will do just
What are the two most common types of
Gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis
is an infection of the outer surface of
the gums. The gums are red, puffy, and
bleed when brushed and flossed. The gum
pockets are 3mm or less. No bone loss
has occurred. This type of gum disease
is reversible with proper home care and
preventive cleanings. Periodontitis is
an infection below the gumline in the
gum pocket and jawbone. Gum pocket depths
are 4mm or more. Bone loss has occurred.
This type of gum disease is irreversible,
but often can be controlled with proper
home care and special teeth cleaning procedures.
Sometimes, gum surgery is needed to reach
tartar far below the gumline, or for other
reasons. We have no cure for this disease,
but it can be well controlled in most
How is gum disease treated?
Gingivitis is treated with proper home
care and preventive cleanings. Periodontitis
is treated in 2-3 steps, depending on
the severity of the disease.
Step 1 is called
scaling and root debridement.
This is a special type of cleaning that
removes plaque, tartar, stain, and an
infected germ layer on the teeth.
Step 2 is gum
surgery, if needed.
Typically only pockets deeper that 5-6mm need gum surgery, and
this is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Step 3 is maintenance.
There is a special type of cleaning called a periodontal maintenance
cleaning and is intended for people who have a history of gum
disease, but no current flare-ups of the disease. This cleaning
removes plaque, tartar, and stain from the teeth and roots both
above and below the gumline. Decades of research have shown that
this type of cleaning is most effective at 3-month intervals,
and patients who have a history of periodontitis should have their
teeth cleaned this often.
What sorts of things
affect the severity of gum disease?
Contributing factors to gum disease include
genetic tendencies, tobacco use, hormones,
certain medications, stress, diabetes,
poor nutrition, teeth grinding, poor health,
poor brushing and flossing habits, and
not having your teeth cleaned regularly.
What medical problems
is gum disease linked to?
Studies link gum disease to stroke, heart
disease, premature birth and low birth
weight babies, osteoporosis, respiratory
infections, and diabetes.