Periodontal (Gum) Treatment


Periodontal (gum) disease is the primary cause of tooth loss in American adults. Dr. Riggs and her staff are committed to taking the necessary time to educate our patients about the causes and prevention of gum disease, and the specialized procedures necessary to treat it. Following are some of the most commonly asked questions about periodontal disease:

What is periodontal (gum) disease?

Periodontal or gum disease is a very common problem in which persistent inflammation and infection of the oral tissue adjacent to the gums occurs. Gum disease can be attributed to 70% of all adult tooth loss; roughly three out of every four adults suffer from gum disease.

What are some causes of periodontal disease?

The chief cause of periodontal disease is bacterial plaque, a sticky colorless film that constantly develops on the teeth. This plaque eventually hardens into a substance called “tartar” (or calculus). If bacterial plaque is not removed daily through brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar that creates toxins irritating to the gums. This constant irritation eventually causes the deterioration of the gum fibers, which fuse your teeth and gums together. Additionally, these toxins are capable of producing periodontal pockets, making your gums even more vulnerable to added build-up of bacteria. As gum disease progresses, the periodontal pockets extend deeper into the tissue, creating a pathway for bacteria right into the bone that holds the tooth in place, which the bacteria destroys. The infected tooth will eventually break, fall out, or require removal.

Are there other factors in the development of periodontal disease?

Genetics and lifestyle choices can play a pivotal role in your susceptibility to gum disease. Poor nutrition and stress, particularly in combination, inhibit your ability to fight off infection. Smokers and “snuff” tobacco users are more prone to the irritation of their gum tissues. Diseases or medications that affect the immune system may have the effect of exacerbating the deterioration of your gums. And in particular, patients with uncontrolled diabetes are very likely to have more serious and advanced gum disease, and their condition makes it much more challenging to treat.

Are there obvious warning signs of periodontal disease?

The warning signs and preliminary symptoms of gum disease include:


  • Red, swollen, tender, or inflamed gums
  • Bleeding during brushing or flossing
  • Gums that draw away from the teeth
  • Loose, wobbly, or separating teeth
  • Constant bad breath
  • Inconsistency in the way the teeth fit together when biting


Although these warning signs are prevalent and obvious in most cases of periodontal disease, it is possible that a patient may not feel any pain or distress until the disease has progressed so far that a tooth becomes hopeless. This is why regular dental visits and cleanings are essential; Dr. Riggs and her team may recognize the symptoms long before you are aware of the problem. 

What does periodontal treatment involve?

Catching gum disease in its early stages is the best possible scenario. Common periodontal treatment entails procedures known as scaling and root planning, which eradicate plaque and tartar near the location of the tooth, evening the root surfaces. The use of antibiotics or antimicrobials is often used in tandem with these procedures to enhance positive outcomes. In serious or highly developed cases of gum disease, a surgical procedure to remove the toughened plaque build-up and to re-contour damaged bone structure is involved. Smoothing of the root surfaces and repositioning of the gum tissue are performed during this process, ensuring easy cleaning and maintenance in the future.

How do you prevent periodontal disease?

A regular and consistent regimen of daily brushing and flossing to remove plaque is the best defense against gum disease. When you add consistent professional cleanings to that treatment plan, your teeth and gums will remain healthy and disease-free.

What role does a general dentist play in the treatment of gum disease?

Typically, it is the general dentist who identifies and treats periodontal disease it in its early stages. If you are showing signs or believe you may have gum disease, contact Riggs Family Dentistry and make your first appointment. Dr. Crystel Riggs has the experience, training, and expertise to treat gum disease, even at its more advanced stages. However, she will not hesitate to refer to a qualified and reputable periodontist if needed.