Gum Disease is Serious But Treatments Are Available
If you have been diagnosed with gum disease, you are likely wondering what it is, how it is caused, and what treatments are available. First, you should know you are not alone. Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, affects almost three-quarters of all Americans at some stage in their lives. The disease is caused by bacteria from plaque and tartar that has built up on your teeth over time. While periodontal disease is most often related to poor brushing and flossing habits, it can also be linked to tobacco use, grinding and clenching teeth, genetics, and taking certain medications. It can also result from a lack of regular professional dental care to remove the plaque and tartar that your toothbrush at home is not designed for.
When giving you the diagnosis, your dentist may refer to your gum disease as either gingivitis, which is the beginning stage of gum disease, or periodontal disease, which is the next stage of gum disease. Periodontal disease is a more serious condition as more damage has been done at this more advanced stage. Untreated, periodontal disease can result in inflammation, tooth loss, and bone loss. If you have red, bleeding, or swollen gums, bad breath, increased tooth mobility, tooth loss, or abscesses, you might be suffering from periodontal disease and should see your dentist.
Treatments for Periodontal Disease
Both gingivitis and periodontal disease can be successfully treated. Gingivitis is the mild stage of gum disease and can be treated at home after learning and adopting a few regular habits. Your dentist will explain brushing and flossing. An electric toothbrush is more effective at cleaning and a good investment in your gum health. Daily flossing and a mild, non-alcoholic mouthwash may become part of your regular routine.
In addition to addressing home care and other causes of your periodontal disease, such as cigarette smoking, there are both surgical and nonsurgical treatments available for periodontal disease. These treatments aim to help restore the health of tissues and minimize or prevent tooth loss.
Identifying gum disease
What happens when you have gum disease? If your gum tissue is healthy, it will fit tightly to each tooth. With gum disease, the gum tissue, inflamed due to bacteria around the gum line, has begun to separate from the tooth. Bacterial plaque builds up under the gum line, causing deeper pockets to form around the teeth. If the pockets between your gum and your tooth reaches 4mm or more, your periodontal disease is reaching a stage where it can cause tooth loss or other problems. In this case, as a first treatment to clean up the bacterial plaque buildup, your dentist is likely to recommend a procedure called scaling and root planing.
The Scaling and Planing Process
Scaling and root planing are usually done together, in a two-step process to rid your teeth of dental plaque (yellow, softer debris that builds up) and calculus (harder and white), both of which harbor harmful bacteria and cause inflammation of your gums.
The scaling and root planing procedure is done by the dental hygienist, but it usually takes longer than regular cleaning. The process may require more than one visit, depending on the sensitivity of your gums and the extent of your periodontal disease. Your hygienist may apply a topical local anesthetic to your gums to ease discomfort.
Scaling involves removing the bacteria and tartar deposits from the teeth just below the gum line. The hygienist uses a handheld dental scaler to scrape plaque from your teeth. He or she may also use ultrasonic instruments that vibrate and spray water for a deep clean.
Root planing is the next step, helping to smooth the rough areas of the root’s surface. When your root surfaces are smooth, this will prevent plaque, bacteria, and tartar from adhering underneath the gum line. This procedure gives your gums time to heal and then reattach themselves to the teeth, closing up the pockets so they don’t get infected again.
The scaling and root planing processes are described in this video.
Your dentist may schedule a follow-up visit for you where they will check to see how your gums are healing, and see if the pockets are shrinking. In most cases, gums that were red and swollen will turn back to pink, bleeding will be eliminated, and the tissue will become firm again. If the gum tissue responds well to the procedure, you may not need to have another treatment. If your condition is more advanced, further treatment may be required.
Treatments for Advanced Periodontal Disease
Scaling and root planing may be needed for all stages of periodontal disease. However, for more advanced cases, where gum disease has resulted in tooth or bone loss or in an unattractive smile due to excess displaced gum tissue, there are additional procedures that you and your dentist may discuss. Depending on your situation and the extent of the damage, your dentist may recommend one of the following:
- Gum Grafting – If you have lost gum tissue, and the roots of your teeth are not protected, you may need to have healthy gum tissue taken from one section of the mouth and moved to the area where the loss has occurred.
- Periodontal Surgery – Periodontal surgery is a plastic surgery procedure that reshapes the gum tissues.
- Laser Treatment – Periodontal laser treatment works by removing the affected tissue with lasers. This procedure is often used to treat gum tissue without shrinking it or causing discomfort.
- Crown Lengthening Surgery – This type of surgery involves exposing areas that were covered by your gums and bone tissue. This can be done to affix a crown, or to make the teeth appear longer if you are suffering from gum disease.
- Dental Implants – If you have tooth loss as a result of your gum disease, your dentist may recommend an implant in which a post is placed into the jawbone and attached to a realistic-looking crow. It will look and perform like your natural tooth, helping you to maintain healthy gums and bone in the area where the tooth was lost.
Contact Balle & Associates for your Periodontal Disease Screening
Are you suffering from bad breath, red, swollen or bleeding gums? Or perhaps you just want to learn more about preventing gum disease from occurring? At Balle & Associates in Las Vegas, our experienced staff can help you maintain a healthy mouth and provide you with information on how to prevent and treat gum disease. Contact us now to see how we can help you keep or restore your bright teeth and healthy gums.