Periodontal disease is a progressive condition that leads to severe inflammation and tooth loss if left untreated. Antibiotic treatments can be used in combination with scaling and root planing, curettage, surgery, or as a stand-alone treatment to help reduce bacteria before and/or after many common periodontal procedures.
Antibiotic treatments come in several different types, including oral forms and topical gels which are applied directly into the gum pockets. Research has shown that in the case of acute periodontal infection, refractory periodontal disease, prepubertal periodontal disease and juvenile periodontal disease, antibiotic treatments have been incredibly effective.
Antibiotics can be prescribed at a low dose for longer term use or as a short term medication to deter bacteria from re-colonizing.
Oral antibiotics tend to affect the whole body and are less commonly prescribed than topical gel. Here are some specific details about several different types of oral antibiotics:
Tetracycline antibiotics – Antibiotics which include tetracycline hydrochloride, doxycycline, and minocycline are the primary drugs used in periodontal treatment. They have antibacterial properties, reduce inflammation and block collagenase (a protein which destroys the connective tissue).
Macrolide antibiotics – This group of antibiotics has proven effective at reducing inflammation and can also reduce bacterial growth associated with periodontitis.
Metronidazole – This antibiotic is generally used in combination with amoxicillin or tetracycline to combat inflammation and bacterial growth in severe or chronic periodontitis.
Topical Gels and Strips
The biggest advantage of directly delivering antibiotics to the surface of the gums is not affecting the entire body. Topical gels and direct delivery methods tend to be preferred over their oral counterparts and are extremely effective when used after scaling and root planing procedures. Here are some of the most commonly used direct delivery antibiotics:
Atridox® – This doxycycline gel conforms to the contours of gum surfaces and solidifies over them. Over several days, this gel gradually releases the antibiotic medication.
PerioChip® – This chip is placed into the actual gum pocket after a root planing procedure. PerioChip® slowly releases Chlorhexidine, a powerful antibacterial antiseptic. PerioChip® reduces pocket depth in most periodontitis cases.
Actisite® – This thin strip is similar to dental floss and contains tetracycline hydrochloride. The thread is temporarily placed between the tooth and gum to kill bacteria and reduce pocket depth. Several threads are sometimes placed for around 10 days to enhance the antibiotic effect.
Elyzol® – This metronidazole antibiotic comes in gel and strip form. It is unique because it is able to destroy parasites as well as oral bacteria.
Arestin® – This Minocycline antibiotic comes in mini capsules which are delivered into the gums after scaling and root planing.
Noticeable periodontal improvements are usually seen after systemic or oral antibiotic treatment. We will incorporate antibiotic treatments as necessary for the healing of your periodontal condition.
Periodontal deep cleaning
The objective of scaling and root planing is to remove etiologic agents which cause inflammation to the gingival (gum) tissue and surrounding bone. Common etiologic agents removed by this conventional periodontal therapy include dental plaque and tartar (calculus).
These non-surgical procedures which completely cleanse the periodontium, work very effectively for individuals suffering from gingivitis (mild gum inflammation) and moderate/severe periodontal disease.
Reasons for scaling and root planing
Scaling and root planing can be used both as a preventative measure and as a stand-alone treatment. These procedures are performed as a preventative measure for a periodontitis sufferer.
Here are some reasons why these dental procedures may be necessary:
Disease prevention – The oral bacteria which cause periodontal infections can travel via the bloodstream to other parts of the body. Research has shown that lung infections and heart disease have been linked to periodontal bacteria. Scaling and root planing remove bacteria and halts periodontal disease from progressing, thus preventing the bacteria from traveling to other parts of the body.
Tooth protection – When gum pockets exceed 3mm in depth, there is a greater risk of periodontal disease. As pockets deepen, they tend to house more colonies of dangerous bacteria. Eventually, a chronic inflammatory response by the body begins to destroy gingival and bone tissue which may lead to tooth loss. Periodontal disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in the developed world.
Aesthetic effects – Scaling and root planing help remove tartar and plaque from the teeth and below the gumline. As an added bonus, if superficial stains are present on the teeth, they will be removed in the process of the scaling and root planing procedure.
Better breath – One of the most common signs of periodontal disease is halitosis (bad breath). Food particles and bacteria can cause a persistent bad odor in the oral cavity which is alleviated with cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planing.
What do scaling and root planing treatments involve?
Scaling and root planing treatments are only performed after a thorough examination of the mouth. The dentist will take X-rays, conduct visual examinations and make a diagnosis before recommending or beginning these procedures.
Depending on the current condition of the gums, the amount of calculus (tartar) present, the depth of the pockets and the progression of the periodontitis, local anesthetic may be used.
Scaling – This procedure is usually performed with special dental instruments and may include an ultrasonic scaling tool. The scaling tool removes calculus and plaque from the surface of the crown and root surfaces. In many cases, the scaling tool includes an irrigation process that can also be used to deliver an antimicrobial agent below the gums that can help reduce oral bacteria.
Root Planing – This procedure is a specific treatment which serves to remove cementum and surface dentin that is embedded with unwanted microorganisms, toxins and tartar. The root of the tooth is literally smoothed in order to promote good healing. Having clean, smooth root surfaces helps bacteria from easily colonizing in future.
Following these deep cleaning procedures, the gum pockets may be treated with antibiotics. This will soothe irritation and help the gum tissues to heal quickly.
During the next appointment, the dentist or hygienist will thoroughly examine the gums again to see how well the pockets have healed. If the gum pockets still measure more than 3mm in depth, additional and more intensive treatments may be recommended.
It only takes twenty four hours for plaque that is not removed from your teeth to turn into calculus (tartar)! Daily home cleaning helps control plaque and tartar formation, but those hard to reach areas will always need special attention.
Once your periodontal treatment has been completed, your dentist and dental hygienist will recommend that you have regular maintenance cleanings (periodontal cleanings), usually four times a year. At these cleaning appointments, the pocket depths will be carefully checked to ensure that they are healthy. Plaque and calculus that is difficult for you to remove on a daily basis will be removed from above and below the gum line.
In addition to your periodontal cleaning and evaluation, your appointment will usually include:
Examination of diagnostic x-rays (radiographs): Essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss.X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
Examination of existing restorations: Check current fillings, crowns, etc.
Examination of tooth decay: Check all tooth surfaces for decay.
Oral cancer screening: Check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, cheek tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
Oral hygiene recommendations: Review and recommend oral hygiene aids as needed. (Electric toothbrushes, special periodontal brushes, fluorides, rinses, etc.)
Teeth polishing: Remove stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
Good oral hygiene practices and periodontal cleanings are essential in maintaining dental health and keeping periodontal disease under control!