Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is a serious condition that undermines the gums and bone structures that support our teeth. It is one of the most important reasons we engage in regular dental hygiene and dental visits, where signs of gum disease can be caught and treated at an early stage. Left undetected, it develops into a chronic disease that can be treated, but never completely cured.
What is Gum Disease?
When we eat, food particles feed the bacteria in our mouths. They create a sticky substance called plaque which hardens into tartar or calculus when it is not removed regularly. Usually, plaque is removed during our dental hygiene routines of brushing and flossing. And tartar is detected and removed when we go for our twice-yearly dental checkups.
If not removed regularly, this calculus irritates the soft gum tissues that surround our teeth. In its early stage, it is called gingivitis. Even if we have good dental hygiene routines, we need a dentist to detect the buildup of calculus because it is too hard to be removed by home care practices.
When it spreads below the gum line, tartar or calculus creates pockets of irritation that undermine the roots, jawbone, and gums. The illustration to the left above shows how the tartar breaks down the structures under the gum line. You can see how the gum on the right has receded compared to the one on the left, and how bony support of the tooth has been compromised. Bone loss between the roots is particularly serious.
At this stage it is called periodontitis, and much like arthritis, periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory disease. It dissolves away the structures that support our teeth. More importantly, periodontitis can persist for years before any symptoms reveal its presence.
According to the American Dental Association, some warning signs of gum disease can include red, swollen, tender gums, or gums that bleed easily. In addition, gums that have pulled away from the teeth, pus between the teeth and gums, and loose permanent teeth all point to the presence of the disease. And finally, changes in your bite or the way your teeth fit together, or changes in the way partial dentures fit can also be warning signs. Unfortunately, by the time some of these symptoms show up, gum disease can be very advanced.
Treating Gum Disease
If Dr. Root detects gum disease during your visit, root planing or scaling may be appropriate treatment options. These are deep cleaning processes that remove tartar and microbial debris from the surface of the tooth that lies below the gum line. The use of anesthetic and spacing the process out over several visits can ease the treatment. The use of an antibiotic and a schedule of antimicrobial irrigation treatments may also be indicated, depending on the severity and prevalence of your condition.
During the course of your treatment, you will appreciate the quality of care delivered by our hygienists. They are highly experienced. Patients find their skill and chairside manner relaxing and calming throughout the treatment. Their professional, pleasant manner as they go about keeping you healthy makes them a joy to work with.
Keeping Your Gums Healthy
After you have received treatment, we’ll make sure that you have the instructions for follow-up care. You’ll need to be extra vigilant about your regular hygiene routines, brushing after every meal, flossing every day, and avoiding eating between meals. In addition, you’ll need to come in for enhanced cleanings more frequently to keep the disease in check. Three-month cleanings are often recommended.
If you have any of the warning signs of gum disease, or if you would like to come in for a regular checkup, please don’t hesitate to call us or complete our Request an Appointment form. We’ll work with your schedule to find an appointment time that works for you.