What is Periodontal Disease and Why Does It Matter?
If you have been told you have periodontal (gum) disease, you’re not alone. Many adults in the U.S. currently have some form of this disease. Periodontal disease ranges from a mild gum inflammation (called gingivitis) to a serious disease that can result in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the worst cases… teeth are lost. Whether your gum disease is stopped, slowed, or gets worse depends a great deal on how well you care for your teeth and gums every day.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
Our mouths are full of bacteria. These bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colorless “plaque” on teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque. However, plaque that is not removed can harden and form calculus that brushing doesn’t clean. Only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove calculus.
How Do I Know If I Have Periodontal Disease?
There is no pain associated with periodontal disease… that is until a tooth becomes so loose that it hurts when it is wiggled. A dentist can diagnose the symptoms during an examination. A patient’s plaque and calculus level is evaluated, their pockets are measured, and radiographs can show a loss of alveolar bone. A mild form of periodontal disease is called gingivitis. A person with gingivitis has swollen gums without bone loss. More advanced cases will include bone loss, among other symptoms. Other symptoms of periodontal disease include:
- Bad breath that won’t go away
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Receding gums or longer appearing teeth
How Is Gum Disease Treated?
The main goal of treatment is to control the infection. The number and types of treatment will vary, depending on the extent of the gum disease. Any type of treatment requires that the patient keep up good daily care at home. The doctor may also suggest changing certain behaviors, such as quitting smoking and more frequent cleanings as a way to improve treatment outcome. Treatment can include scaling and root planing, periodontal flap surgery, and tissue regeneration.
- Scaling and Root Planing – The most common treatment is for the dentist, periodontist, or dental hygienist to remove the calculus through a deep-cleaning method called scaling and root planing. Under local anesthesia, the detnal professional scrapes off the calculus from above and below the gum line, gets ride of rough spots on the tooth root where the germs gather, and helps remove bacteria that contribute to the disease.
- Periodontal Flap Surgery – Surgery might be necessary if inflammation and deep pockets remain following treatment with deep cleaning and medications. This common surgery involves lifting back the gums and removing the calculus underneath. The gums are then sutured back in place so that the tissue fits snugly around the tooth again. After surgery the gums will heal and fit more tightly around the tooth. This sometimes results in the teeth appearing longer.
- Tissue regeneration– In addition to flap surgery, your dentist may suggest procedures to help regenerate any bone or gum tissue lost to periodontitis. Bone grafting uses natural or synthetic bone that is placed in the area of bone loss, can help promote bone growth. Growth factors – proteins that can help your body naturally regrow bone – may also be used. In cases where gum tissue has been lost, your dentist may suggest a soft tissue graft, in which synthetic material or tissue taken from another area of your mouth is used to cover exposed tooth roots. Since each case is different, it is not possible to predict with certainty which grafts will be successful over the long-term. Treatment results depend on many things, including how far the disease has progressed, how well the patient keeps up with oral care at home, and certain risk factors, such as smoking, which may lower the chances of success. Ask your dentist what the level of success might be in your particular case.
More Facts About Periodontal/Gum Disease
Studies have shown that those with periodontal disease, when compared to people without gum disease, are more likely to develop heart disease, have difficulty controlling blood sugar, and, in pregnant women, are more likely to deliver preterm, low birth weight babies.
Fortunately, it can be easily prevented with good oral hygiene and regular visits to your dental professional. Regular visits to the dentist should be part of everyone’s routine for leading a long healthy life. Call 615-890-0474 or visit our contact page today to schedule your regular cleaning and examination.