When brushing and flossing, many people tend to think that the health of their teeth equals their oral health. However, the truth is your gums are just as important to your oral health, if not more so. Your gums are part of a larger tissue system called the periodontium, and this system not only holds your teeth in place, but it also provides cushioning to prevent tooth damage when you chew or suffer physical trauma.

Your gum tissue attaches to your teeth below your gum line, creating a small space known as a sulcus. Food, bacteria, and plaque that accumulate in this space and cause an early form of gum disease called gingivitis. If you don’t treat the infection, it can progress to a more advanced stage called periodontitis, which can result in loose teeth, lost teeth, and even permanent gum damage.

At Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. in Orinda, California, Dr. Ellis and our team offer comprehensive periodontics to treat gum disease and prevent it from recurring. Here’s what we want you to know about the problem of gum disease and how a scaling and root planing treatment can help save your teeth.

The basics of gum disease

Your mouth is home to many strains of bacteria, which feed off food particles left behind on your teeth and gums. In the process, they produce an acid that can eat away tooth enamel and irritate the gums.

If you don’t brush and floss regularly, the bacteria can form a thin film called plaque, which, if not removed, can harden into tartar (calculus) and cause gum tissue below the gum line to pull away from the tooth roots.

What are the signs of early gum disease?

There are four major signs of gingivitis. If you experience any of these, make an appointment to see Dr. Ellis as soon as possible.

1. Your gums bleed while brushing and flossing

Brushing and flossing are meant to remove the bacteria, food debris, and plaque from your teeth and gums. This shouldn’t hurt. If your gums start to bleed while brushing, you could be developing gum disease.

2. Your gums are dark red, swollen, or both

Your gums should be pink and lie flat against your teeth. If they’re dark red, swollen, or both, this could mean that there’s an infection, because plaque and tartar have built up between your teeth and gums.

3. Your breath smells bad

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can occur for a number of reasons. However, if you smell something offensive in your mouth that isn’t caused by something you ate, and you also notice bleeding or swollen gums, your gum disease is probably becoming more advanced.

4. Your gums are receding

As gingivitis moves toward periodontitis, your gums can pull away from your tooth roots and create deep pockets where bacteria, plaque, and tartar can build up. If you notice your teeth appearing longer than usual, this is a sign of exposed roots, and you need to see the dentist for treatment.

How can scaling and root planing fight gum disease?

If gum disease becomes more advanced, we can perform a deep cleaning known as scaling and root planing. This combination of procedures is considered to be the “gold standard” for chronic periodontal disease, and a review of 72 journal articles found that scaling and root planing reduced the pocket size between teeth and gums by an average of 0.5 millimeters.

First, Dr. Ellis starts with teeth scaling, which involves removing plaque from your teeth and from any pockets that have developed. In doing this, she works above and below the gum line.

Next, she performs the root planing, which involves smoothing the tooth roots with a scaling tool. This smoothing helps your gums reattach to your teeth and also makes it more difficult for bacteria and plaque to stick to the roots.

Depending on the overall health of your teeth and gums, she may also use antimicrobial agents or prescribe oral antibiotics to wipe out any traces of infection to help you heal faster.

If you notice any signs of early gum disease, Dr. Ellis can give you a thorough evaluation and put you on the path to good oral health. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. today.