About Gum Disease
Written By Richard M. Weledniger, DDS, PC

What is Gum disease? What is Root Planing?
The Link Between Gum Disease and Health Concerns What is a frenectomy?
What is Gingivitis? Signs of  Periodontal Disease

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease or periodontal disease or gingivitis as it is also called is the number one cause of tooth loss today. The reason you loose teeth from gum disease is because this disease attacks the gums as well as the bone, which are the foundation in which your teeth rest. As the bone literally dissolves away from around your teeth, your teeth become loose and eventually fall out.

Anyone at any age is susceptible to gum disease. Gum disease is caused by plaque. If the plague is not removed on a daily basis it will form calculus, which is the breeding ground for the germs which cause gum disease. Bleeding gums are the first sign that there may be a problem with the gums. Puffy, tender red gums are also a sign that there is an infection present. Bleeding gums however are not always present even in severe cases of gum disease.

Routine and regular visits to your dentist are the best way of catching gum disease in its early stages before too much damage has been caused. Gum disease will not go away by itself or with improved home care. The only way of removing plaque deep under the gums is with professional cleanings. Once you have had a gum problem you will always be susceptible to recurring problems, so be sure to see your dentist on a regular basis - every three to four months, unless he or she recommends otherwise.

Why can't you just clean my teeth?

Periodontal disease is a serious infection. Evidence now links gum disease to a variety of health concerns, including heart diease, stoke, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases that are like threatening. It's not just about your teeth anymore!

Periodontal disease can be a disfiguring disease. Your gums swell in size and become red and angry looking. They may bleed very readily. Your teeth may shift and dark spaces between your teeth may start showing. The teeth then become loose and may need to be removed.

Early detection as with other diseases is the key to successful treatment. Your dentist or hygienist should routinely perform a gum (periodontal) disease screening exam. This is recommended at least once a year by the American Dental Association. The results of this examination will determine your periodontal status. If you have periodontal disease, your treatment will be personalized for you and your level of infection. A routine cleaning is not enough by itself to treat periodontal disease.

The Link Between Gum Disease and Health Concerns....

The oral bacteria that is found in patient's with periodontal disease can enter into the the blood stream. From here the bacteria can travel throughout the body. Inflammation sets in, but your body's immune response sometime falls short . . . These bacterial colonies can cause serious problems such as:

  • Stroke - a new study of fatty deposits lodged in carotid arteries of stroke sufferers shows that 70% contain bacteria - and 40% of that bacteria comes from the mouth.
  • Heart Disease - Studies have found the incidence of heart disease is about twice as high in people with periodontal disease. Bacteria get mixed up with blood-clotting cells called platelets, forming a clump that travels through the blood vessels. These clumps of cells and bacteria irritate vessel walls and may promote formation of heat stopping blood clots. The  inflammation also produces a protein that can irritate the interior of blood vessels, creating sites where fatty deposits can form.
  • Infective Endocarditis, a potentially fatal disease in which the inner lining of the heart becomes inflamed.
  • Diabetes - Studies have shown that diabediabetics with gum disease were three times more likely to have heart attacks than those without gum disease.
  • Spontaneous pre-term births - women with gum disease are 7 to 8 times more likely to give birth prematurely to low-birth-weight babies. Researchers believe that the low-grade infection causes damaged cells to release inflammation causing substances that have been linked with pre-term births.
  • Lung Infections in people with chronic lung diseases.
  • A weakened immune system that can slow wound healing and diminish a person's response to hepatitis B and flu vaccines.
  • Tooth Loss

Summary - Signs of Periodontal disease

If you notice any of the following signs, please call and make an appointment with your dentist immediately

Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth

Red, swollen, puffy or tender gums

Gums that have pulled away from the teeth

Bad breath, that just does not want to go away

Exudate or pus that is between your teeth

A loose or several loose teeth

A change in the way your teeth come together when you close your mouth

Any change in the way your partial dentures fit

What is Root Planing?

Normal tooth cleanings remove plaque and calculus deposits from above the gum line. When these deposits extend below the gum line, root planing is necessary.

Root planing is performed with the same tools as normal cleanings, but the procedure is more aggressive. Often it is necessary to numb the affected area before the procedure. Once the accumulated plaque and calculus have been removed, the gums will heal, tightening around the teeth.

Depending upon the extent of disease found in the examination, root planing may be done over several office visits. In this way, your dentist can assess the progress of treatment, and alter tactics if necessary.

Simply stated, root planing may be considered as an extension of a "routine cleaning". A "routine cleaning" is intended to clean harden deposits that form above the gums. Over time, these deposits often form below the gums, on the roots. It is at this point that we recommend a more therapeutic procedure, called root planing.


During this procedure the root surfaces are literally planed. This accomplishes several things:

removes hard deposits and the bacteria they harbor

creates a smooth root surface that is easier to keep clean

reduces infection because the bacteria will not reattach to the smooth surface as readily


Periodontal therapy represents a partnership between you and your periodontal team. If we each do our part, you will achieve the maximum benefit from this procedure. Your results will be affected by:

how effective you perform your home care




It is unrealistic to consider your therapy as a quick fix. Each person will respond differently to treatment. Future treatment recommendations will be made on the basis of your healing. For healing to be maximized it is imperative that you participate in your home care everyday.

What is a frenectomy?

A frenectomy is the surgical removal of a frenum in the mouth. A frenum is a fold of tissue that passes from the movable lip or cheek to the gum. When a frenum is positioned in such a way as to interfere with the normal alignment of teeth or results in pulling away of the gum from the tooth surface causing recession, these are often removed using a surgical process known as a frenectomy.

Gingivitis: The most common
disease among kids in the world

By Dr. Michael Bral
New York University

New York - What is the most common disease in the world among kids? Polio? Cancer? Malnutrition?

No, it's gingivitis which, is inflammation of the gums. An estimated 98 percent of all young people have some degree of gum inflammation.

Although gingivitis in children rarely causes a serious problem such as permanent tooth loss, it has a tendency to peak in severity at the time of puberty. Existing gingivitis is intensified during the period of hormonal changes, although it is gradually reduced throughout the remainder of the teen years.

Fortunately, gingivitis has a simple solution: good oral hygiene. Daily brushing and flossing not only prevents gingivitis, but more importantly, also controls tooth decay and more long-term dental problems.

Gingivitis results form the buildup of bacterial plaque on the tooth. The plaque serves as a breeding ground for multiplication of bacteria and their destructive byproducts, which eventually, through some complex changes, cause the gums to bleed.

When gums bleed on brushing, it is a clear sign the gums are inflamed and that gingivitis is present.

If your child's gums bleed, don't be alarmed; regular correct brushing should eventually remove the plaque, stop the bleeding, and cure gingivitis.

Dental visits for checkups and tooth cleaning should take place at least every six months, regardless of the presence or absence of bleeding and gingivitis.

For children who have physical or mental handicaps that make up regular brushing difficult, assistance at home as well as power-operated toothbrushes and antibacterial mouth rinses can be used to prevent or treat gingivitis.

Use of dental floss at least two or three times a week should be introduced when the child is old enough to use it. Like toothbrushing, flossing is essential for good oral health, and should become a matter of habit.

It is also important for the child to know to brush every tooth - not just the ones in the front.

As signs in some dentists' offices says: "You do not have to brush every tooth - only the ones you want to keep."

Dr. Michael Bral is Professor and Chairman of Periodontics at New York University College of Dentistry.

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