Treatment and Prevention of Gum Disease

What is Gum Disease?

gum diseasePeriodontal (gum) disease describes bacterial growth and toxins that gradually destroy tissue supporting the teeth. Gingivitis and periodontitis are the two main stages of gum disease. Gingivitis involves inflammation of the gums from plaque. It can be treated and reversed with professional cleanings, daily brushing and flossing to remove plaque accumulation. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can lead to periodontal disease.

Periodontitis is an actual infection of the tissues and bone that support the teeth. Deep gum pockets are formed that allow harmful bacteria to grow and cause inflammation and infection that destroys the supporting structures and bone around the teeth. Untreated, periodontal diseases may eventually lead to tooth loss.

Periodontal disease often starts in adolescence and can progress painlessly for years before becoming apparent. Bone tissue wears away from around the roots of teeth faster than the gum tissue can follow. Hard to clean gum pockets harbor millions of bacteria that destroys bone. As more bone support is lost around the roots, teeth become loose and the person's breath often becomes foul.

The Signs

gingivitisUntil their teeth become loose or actually fall out, most people are unaware that they have periodontal disease. Nevertheless, this is the number one reason that adults lose their teeth. More than 75% of adults have some form of gum disease. Recent medical research found that there may be a possible association between periodontal disease and systemic health, including increased risk of stroke, heart attack, diabetic complications, and serious pregnancy complications.

Common indications of periodontal disease include:

  • Do your gums bleed when you brush, floss or use a toothpick?
  • Are your gums red, swollen and painful?
  • Do you have pus coming from between your gums and teeth if you push on your gums?
  • Are your gums pulling away from your teeth?
  • Has there been a change in the way your teeth come together when you bite or chew on food?
  • Do your teeth look longer because of receding gums?
  • Are your teeth loose?
  • Do you have bad breath?

Any of these conditions could indicate a problem requiring more than just a “routine” cleaning of your teeth. A thorough evaluation of your gums and overall dental health, including a comprehensive examination, X-rays, and periodontal probing are necessary to diagnose gum disease. The sooner that gum disease is diagnosed and treated, the better your long-term prognosis and likelihood of preventing tooth loss.

Treatment

Once periodontal disease is diagnosed, it must be treated right away. The first step is usually a procedure called scaling and root planing. This is performed by a licensed dental hygienist, typically on two quadrants of the mouth under local anesthetic. Tartar, bacteria and toxins are removed with an ultrasonic cleaner to promote healing of the gum tissue and shrink bacteria-filled pockets. For deeper pockets, a topical antibiotic may also be used to kill bacteria. Once completed, it is essential to be on a frequent maintenance recall to treat the recolonization of bacteria below the gums before more bone loss occurs.

Our experienced hygienist does not simply remove debris and build-up from the teeth. She specializes in assessment of the supporting structures of the teeth and evaluates patients for potential risk factors that lead to periodontal disease.

Periodontal Disease in Post-Menopausal Women

post menopausalRecent studies have shown that estrogen deficiency after menopause and consequent loss of bone mineral density increases a woman's susceptibility to gingival inflammation and periodontal disease. Dental health depends a great deal on the integrity of the alveolar bone to which the teeth are anchored. Periodontal disease is the major cause of alveolar bone and tooth loss in patients over the age of 35.

Because of their increased risk and susceptibility to harmful bacteria, menopausal women should take extra steps to control periodontal disease. Diligent brushing and twice-a-day flossing are important, but regular visits to a skilled dental office at recommended intervals are critical. Dr. Rogers and our hygienist specialize in the special treatment needs of menopausal and post-menopausal women.