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Although the field of periodontology was formalized in the early 20th century, periodontal disease and treatment have been recognized throughout history. For thousands of years, it was thought that buildups of calculus, or tartar, were responsible for periodontal disease. Many old civilizations documented periodontal diseases or treatment methods.

In the late 1800s, periodontal surgery techniques were developed and diagnosis was improved by the use of X-rays. In recent years, digital radiography and superimposed X-ray images have enhanced the effectiveness of X-rays. Surgical methods have also been refined, and lasers are now used in place of scalpels in certain procedures. About 20 to 25 years ago, a multitude of diagnostic procedures were established. Periodontal researchers have developed methods to regenerate lost bone in recent years.

It has been confirmed that bacterial infection, not calculus buildup, causes periodontal disease. Periodontists now use antibiotics, either in pill form or placed inside the periodontal pocket.

When treatment fails and a tooth must be extracted, dental implants offer a new way of replacing the tooth; artificial teeth or dentures may be attached to implants.

An intensive area of periodontal research today is the relationship between gum disease and medical conditions, including heart disease and premature births. Chronic exposure to periodontal bacteria and inflammation may make people more susceptible to other diseases. Future research may provide a vaccine to prevent periodontal infections.

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