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Periodontal health is essential not only to your dental wellness, but also to your overall well-being. Healthy gums provide a strong foundation for teeth, aiding in proper oral function and defending against harmful bacteria. Being mindful of, and consistently maintaining, your periodontal health can protect you from a plethora of preventable concerns.

For this reason, we strive to help our patients keep their gums healthy with in-office treatments and directions for at-home care. Our Naperville cosmetic dentist, David Newkirk, DDS, has treated thousands of patients with varying levels of gum disease. No matter your specific case, he can meet with you to determine a plan to improve your periodontal health.

What Is Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a type of condition that can affect the gums, teeth, and supporting structures. Caused by a bacterial infection, the disease ranges in severity and typically progresses in stages. When left untreated, gum disease can result in irreversible complications, from aesthetic dental concerns and tooth loss to heart disease and diabetes.*

Gum disease is a widespread issue, with approximately half of the US population suffering from some degree of the condition.* Its prevalence may be due in part to the fact that symptoms are not always readily noticeable. Dr. Newkirk considers it his job as an oral healthcare professional to help patients stay aware of periodontal disease and its dangers. Because the condition can worsen significantly without proper care, we believe awareness is the first step in combating this often serious condition.

What Are the Causes and Risks of Gum Disease?

Gum disease can be caused by various phenomena, such as:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Poor nutrition
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Certain medications
  • Genetics
  • Hormonal changes
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism)

What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?

The symptoms of gum disease frequently include:

As we mentioned earlier, symptoms of gum disease are not always apparent, especially in the earliest stages of the disease (i.e. gingivitis). This is why it is crucial to attend your biannual cleanings and exams, where we can thoroughly examine your mouth for signs of periodontal disease or other complications.

What Are the Stages of Gum Disease?

Dentists generally recognize three stages of gum disease, described below in order from least to most severe.


This initial stage of periodontal disease is characterized by simple inflammation of the gums. The gums may be red and puffy, bleed easily when you brush or touch them, or feel tender; alternatively, symptoms may not yet be apparent. In many cases, a good professional cleaning followed by good home care can reverse gingivitis before it has the chance to worsen.


When bacteria starts to affect the bony support of the teeth, we use the term “periodontitis.” At this stage, pockets can develop around the teeth and signs of bone loss can appear on x-rays. While some patients begin to experience symptoms such as pockets or gum recession by this point, others do not yet feel any discomfort at all, and some don’t notice anything wrong until their teeth begin to become loose. Unfortunately, once gum disease has developed into periodontitis, it is almost always too late to reverse the damage.

Advanced Periodontitis

At this stage, the infection and inflammation have progressed significantly, posing a serious threat to your dental health. Complications such as tooth loss, gum recession, chronic halitosis, and pus are liable to arise. Symptoms at this stage are typically manageable, but in most cases, they cannot be cured.

How Is Gum Disease Treated?

Dr. Newkirk is proficient in many types of gum disease treatment, from less intensive options to surgical procedures. One common approach, especially for moderate to advanced gum disease, includes a treatment known as scaling and root planing. This minimally invasive procedure can remove plaque and calculus from below the gumline via an extremely thorough deep-cleaning process (scaling). From there, Dr. Newkirk can smooth the roots, encouraging the gums to reattach to the teeth and making it more difficult for bacteria to develop (root planing).* This deep cleaning is done under local anesthetic and may take several appointments.

Patients suffering from more severe periodontitis can often benefit from surgical intervention. Certain procedures, such as flap surgery or pocket reduction surgery, may be necessary to access deeper areas of infection, remove damaged tissue, and reduce pocket depths.

With this in mind, there are several helpful habits that you can incorporate into your daily routine to potentially prevent gum disease before these treatments become necessary. Brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing regularly, and attending your dental exams are essential. In addition, certain anti-plaque rinses approved by the American Dental Association (ADA) have been known to aid in the fight against gum disease.

What Does Gum Disease Treatment Recovery Involve?

After a scaling and root planing procedure, we advise you to follow these guidelines: 

Please contact our office if you have any questions or concerns about your recovery.

Dr. Newkirk and the rest of our compassionate team truly care about your periodontal health. We urge you to take proper care of your gums in order to enjoy good dental health and experience fewer complications. To learn more, we welcome you to contact us.

Medical References* 

National Library of Medicine
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Mayo Clinic