Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease or gingivitis, is an infection of the gums surrounding your teeth. Gum disease is one of the top reasons for tooth loss in adults, and because it is virtually pain-free, many patients do not know they have the disease. During each regular checkup, your dentist will check for signs of periodontal disease by measuring the space between your teeth and gums.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque (a sticky form of bacteria that forms on the teeth). If the plaque is not removed (by flossing, brushing, and regular dental checkups), it will continue to build up and create toxins that can damage the gums. Periodontal disease forms just below the gum line and creates small pockets that separate the gums from the teeth. Periodontal disease has two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Gingivitis — This is the early stage of gum disease, when the gums become red and swollen, and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is treatable and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing
- Periodontitis — If left untreated, gingivitis will advance into periodontitis, and the gums and bone that support the teeth will become seriously and irreversibly damaged. Gums infected with periodontitis can cause teeth to become loose, fall out, or be removed by a dentist
Why is Gum Disease so Serious?
Recent research reveals that gum disease is linked to increased risk for major overall health problems, including but not limited to stroke, heart disease, respiratory problems, osteoporosis, diabetes complications, low birth weight, and most recently, dementia. Because of these findings, research continues. We may learn much more in the next few years.
It makes perfect sense, though, that gum disease is linked to overall health problems. Gum disease treatment in Natick, MA is vital, because everything that enters or is present in the mouth has access to the whole body. The mouth is like a portal to the body. That's why regular checkups and hygiene visits are vital to not only oral health, but also to overall health.
Is Gum Disease Curable?
Unfortunately, gum disease is not curable. However, we can detect early warning signs of gum disease at your regular dental checkups. At this stage, prevention might be as simple as changing your brushing technique, improving your flossing routine, or changing the products you use for oral care at home.
- red or purple gums,
- soft gum tissue,
- receding gums,
- pain or tenderness in gums,
- bleeding gums,
- bad breath
- swollen gums.
- Poor dental hygiene such as not brushing or flossing effectively
- hormone changes,
- medications and
- diseases such as diabetes and cancer
What Are Some Different Treatments for Gum Disease
Gum disease can be treated in a number of ways, depending on the severity and history of each individual case. The goal of treatment is to control and prevent bacterial growth. Gum disease treatments can run the gamut from non-evasive therapies to surgical approaches. Here are some common treatment plans:
- Professional Dental Cleanings: If you are in the beginning stages of gum disease, your dentist may recommend you come in for dental cleanings more than twice a year.
- Scaling and Root Planing: If you have plaque and tartar under your gums, deep cleaning may be the right treatment for you. This deep cleaning involves a method called “Scaling and Root Planing,” which scrapes off the tartar from the gum line and then removes spots from the roots of teeth that are prone to gathering bacteria. A laser, as well as other manual instruments, can be used for this method. Medication such as antimicrobial mouth rinse, antibiotics, and antiseptics may also be used along with this method to control bacterial infections.
- Bone and Tissue Grafts: If you have persistent inflammation and deep tartar build up, another option in addition to flap surgery may include bone and tissue grafts. Bone and tissue grafts can regenerate bone or gum tissue loss. Bone grafting promotes bone growth, replacing bone loss through natural or synthetic means. Guided tissue regeneration, a form of bone grafting keeps the gum tissues from growing where the bones should be. Soft tissue grafting supports gum tissue loss, replacing tissues through natural or synthetic means so that tooth roots are protected. Finally, bone surgery decreases shallow craters in the bone to protect against further bone loss and prevent continued bacteria.
Assessing and Preparing for Your Gum Disease Treatment
Your dentist can help you first assess your gum disease issues by noting any inflammation surrounding your gums. They may also ask about your medical history and use a “probe” to check and measure any pockets of plaque infection. Your dentist may then refer you to a periodontist for further treatment. Most gum disease treatments are performed in a dentist or periodontist’s office. Local anesthesia can be given during surgical procedures to numb the gum areas.
Gum Disease Treatment Recovery
You should experience minimal discomfort after your gum disease treatment. You may experience some bleeding or swelling of your gums after gum disease surgery. Ice and pressure can be applied to minimize swelling and bleeding. It is also best to eat softer foods, avoiding spicy and hot foods, immediately following the procedure. For any discomfort, the dentist or periodontist may prescribe ibuprofen or other pain relievers, which should regularly be taken. You are encouraged to be gentler than usual when brushing and flossing your teeth after your treatment.
Preventing Gum Disease
Regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are important for maintaining your health and the health of your smile. You don't have to lose teeth to periodontal disease, and by practicing good oral hygiene at home, you can significantly reduce your chances of ever getting gum disease. Remember to brush regularly, clean between your teeth, eat a balanced diet, and schedule regular dental visits to help keep your smile healthy.
In addition, there are a few other factors that may increase your risk for getting gum disease including:
- Having diabetes
- Being pregnant
- Smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco
- Having crooked teeth that are hard to keep clean
- Taking certain medications including steroids and some types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer fighting drugs and oral contraceptives