Gum disease, is also known as periodontal disease, and is an infection of the tissue surrounding your teeth (gums, bone, ligament). Gum disease is the number one cause for tooth loss in adults! Since it is virtually pain free, many patients do not know they have the disease. It is possible to have gum disease and have no warning signs. That is one reason why regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are very important. Treatment methods depend upon the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed. Good dental care at home is essential to help keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring.
Our office has gone through great lengths to develop a periodontal program to detect and treat gingivitis and periodontists. During each new patient exam and all regular checkups, your dental hygienist and/or Dr. Collura, will check for signs of periodontal disease by measuring the space between your teeth and gums. If needed we will tailor make a treatment plan to get the disease state maintained.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque (a sticky mix of biofilm and bacteria that forms on the teeth). If the plaque is not removed (by flossing, brushing, and regular dental cleanings), it will mineralize and become calculus (tartar). This rough surfaces attracts even more harmful bacterial which create toxins that can damage the gums and surrounding tissues. Periodontal disease forms just below the gum line and creates small pockets that separate the gums from the teeth. In advanced stages is causing bone loss and recession. Periodontal disease has two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Gingivitis — The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. If you have gingivitis, your gums may become red, swollen and may bleed easily. At this stage, no bone loss has occured and the tissues have are inflammed but not damaged. The disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by a professional cleanings, oral hygiene instructions, and improve home care.
- Periodontitis — If left untreated, gingivitis will advance into periodontitis. Periodontitis is a set of inflammatory diseases affecting the periodontium , the tissues that surround and support the teeth (gums, bone, ligament),. Periodontitis involves progressive loss of the alveolar bone around the teeth, and if left untreated, can lead to the loosening and subsequent loss of teeth. Periodontitis is treatable but not completely curable, meaning we can control and stabilize the disease, but we cannot reverse the bone loss. (
Certain factors can increase a patient’s risk of developing periodontal disease, including:
- Smoking or using chewing tobacco
- Certain types of medication such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, calcium channel blockers, and oral contraceptives
- Bridges that no longer fit properly
- Crooked teeth
- Old fillings
While it is possible to have periodontal disease and not know it, some symptoms can include:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Any change in the fit of partial dentures
Treating Gum Disease
Treatments for gum disease can vary depending on the severity of each individual case. Typical treatments include:
- Initial Treatment begins with scaling and root planing (deep cleaning), that removes the calculus from below and above the gumline. This is followed by re-evaluation, and more regular dental cleanings. We may also use localized antibiotics to help in the healing process.
- If initial treatment does not produce the desired healing, a referral to the periodonist will occur and periodontal surgery may be warranted.
- Dental implants
Preventing Gum Disease
Remember: You don’t have to lose teeth to gum disease. Brush your teeth twice a day, clean between your teeth daily, eat a balanced diet, and schedule regular dental visits for a lifetime of healthy smiles.