Periodontics and Gum Disease

The dental cleaning and exam is one of the most important and valuable dental visits. Many dental problems start out small but can quickly worsen to become serious conditions. These problems are much easier to treat when they are caught early. A dental cleaning and exam is the best place to catch, and even treat some of, these problems.


One dental problem that can be treated with regular dental cleanings is gingivitis. Gingivitis is a very common and mild form of periodontal (gum) disease that causes swelling and bleeding of the gums. Gingivitis can be so mild you may not be aware you have it. It is important to take gingivitis seriously and get it treated because it can lead to serious gum disease.

Gingivitis almost always begins with plaque. Plaque is an invisible, sticky film. It forms on your teeth when starches and sugars in food interact with the bacteria in your mouth.  Brushing your teeth removes plaque, but it re-forms quickly, usually within 24 hours. Plaque that stays on your teeth longer than two or three days can harden into calculus. The longer plaque and calculus remain on your teeth, the more they irritate your gums. In time, your gums become swollen and bleed easily. Usually you can't get rid of calculus by brushing and flossing — you need a professional dental cleaning to remove it.

Healthy gums are firm and pale pink. If your gums are puffy, dusky red or bleed easily, see Dr. Van Pelt. The sooner you seek care, the better your chances of reversing damage from gingivitis and halting its progression to more serious periodontal disease.


The effects of gingivitis are reversible, but untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis.  When too much plaque and calculus accumulates on your teeth and under your gum line your gums become inflamed. This causes the tissues and bone that support the teeth to be broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. This destructive process can have very mild symptoms. But eventually teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.

Root planing is a procedure to treat moderate to advanced periodontitis. Dr. Van Pelt or his hygienist thoroughly cleans the roots of your teeth to remove calculus and promote the reattachment of the gum tissue to the tooth. The process usually requires local anesthesia. Thorough periodontal scaling usually involves several dental visits.

Research shows that more than one in three people over age 30 have periodontitis. In fact, periodontitis is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. A growing body of research links periodontitis to heart disease, diabetes, preterm and low birth weight babies, and respiratory disease. The good news is that with regular brushing, flossing, cleanings and examinations, you can avoid many of the complications associated with calculus build-up.

The Dental Recall Appointment

Patients should schedule their recall appointments on a regular basis for the early diagnosis of dental disease.  Dr. Van Pelt may recommend a cleaning every six months, or more often. Recall frequency depends on many factors and is determined on an individual basis. If your insurance plan only covers cleanings twice a year but you need them more frequently, it’s still very important to stick to the schedule recommended by Dr. Van Pelt.  The money you spend on prevention can save you a lot of money and time in the long run. Schedule your appointment today. Please call our dental office today at 530-283-9988 or fill out our contact form to schedule cleanings and examinations for you and your family.

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