Periodontics / Gum Disease Therapy
Disease is discussed in the news quite a bit. We talk about being heart healthy and work to raise money for cancer, which are both great causes. What is frequently missed is the largest, most common disease in the United States, periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. Gum disease is currently affecting more adults in the US than heart disease, Alzheimer's, stroke and cancer combined. In fact, about 50% of adults under 40 and 80% of adults under 60 have some form of gum disease (periodontal disease, advanced periodontitis or the more mild gingivitis).
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an infection of your periodontitis, which are the gums and bone that support your teeth. It starts when plaque, mixed with food debris, settles at the base of our teeth and then hardens into tartar or calculus. Plaque is filled with bacteria and it thrives there. With calculus sitting at the base of our teeth, it begins to extend below the gum line. Your soft tissues immediately react to this bacteria and infection grows and spreads quickly. Symptoms are mild initially, sometimes patients are unaware or ignore the signs indicating a problem. Signs include:
- Your normally pink gums appear more red
- Your gums are tender to the touch
- There is pain at the gum line around a tooth
- Brushing or flossing causes bleeding
Gum disease, left untreated, is serious.
Oral Health: As the infection rages, the condition progresses. Your gums will try to protect themselves and recede away, meaning they also pull away from your teeth as pockets of bacteria form. Unfortunately, the bacteria can destroy both your gum tissue and bone. As your gums pull away, so does the strength of your teeth, as their base is not holding on to them as tightly, leading to tooth and bone loss.
Overall Health: Doctors have found links between gum disease and the overall health of patients. Everything that enters the mouth, including bacteria and infection, has access to the whole body. Our mouths are a portal to our entire body, so regular dental checkups are not only important to our oral health, but also our overall health.
Is Gum Disease Curable?
We do not consider gum disease cured, but maintained. We maintain it with dental cleanings and education about home care. Occasionally, we may prescribe a medicated rinse as needed. Gum disease can be made significantly improved with a dental cleaning or a more thorough deep cleaning as a non-surgical therapy. This treatment involves:
- Scaling: to remove hardened calculus.
- Root Planing: to smooth the rough areas on the roots, this helps limit bacteria from gathering.
- Antibiotic Therapy: a medicated rinse to reduce infection. Surgery may be necessary in extreme circumstances.