What is gum disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is often not detected at an early stage due to its painless nature. It is typically diagnosed after it progresses from gingivitis, the mildest form, to periodontitis, which is a more severe form that can cause tooth loss.

The main cause of gum disease is the buildup of plaque or calculus around the teeth, which occurs due to negligence in maintaining proper oral hygiene. However, gum disease is largely preventable through regular visits to the dentist and proper treatment to stop its development and progression.

Importance of gums

The importance of gums lies in their role in protecting the base of the teeth where they meet the jawbone. Without healthy gums, the teeth would be exposed to harmful bacteria and decay quickly. Gums also help teeth grow properly and absorb shock or damage to the mouth. Therefore, maintaining proper gum health is crucial for overall oral care.

What is periodontitis?

Periodontitis is the inflammation of the gums, bone, and periodontal ligament, which are the supporting structures of a tooth. If left untreated, periodontitis can destroy the soft tissues surrounding a tooth and cause decay of the bone, resulting in teeth loosening and eventual tooth loss.

The occurrence of periodontitis is common, but it is largely preventable. The primary causes are the formation of plaque around the teeth and the formation of loose pockets between teeth and gums, which allow bacteria and plaque to accumulate and hasten the development of the disease.

Symptoms of periodontitis

– swollen and puffy gums

– bright red, purplish gums

– tenderness in the gums

– increased bleeding tendency (gums bleed readily on probing)

–  bad taste and bad breath

– pus

– loose teeth

– tooth loss

– pain on biting, and gum recession.

Difference between periodontitis and gingivitis

Periodontitis can be differentiated from other gum diseases, such as gingivitis, by the involvement of the entire periodontium (supporting structures of a tooth) and the irreversible bone damage that occurs in periodontitis, leading to tooth loss. Gingivitis, on the other hand, can be reversed with proper oral hygiene and regular dental checkups.

Importance of periodontal treatment

Periodontal treatment, also known as periodontal maintenance, involves thorough cleaning or removal of tartar/calculus to prevent further damage to the teeth and bone.

There are several important reasons why seeking periodontal therapy if you have been diagnosed with gum disease is crucial:

1. Prevent Tooth Loss: Gum disease in its advanced stages can lead to tooth loss. The bacteria causing the infection can affect the gums, tooth roots, and jawbone, causing gum recession and weakening the support for your teeth.

2. Alleviate Unpleasant Symptoms: Gum disease can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms, including pain, bad breath, abscesses, and difficulty eating.

3. Protect Overall Health: Gum disease is an inflammatory condition that can have systemic effects on your overall health. If left untreated, the bacteria from gum disease can enter the bloodstream and spread to other organs and systems in the body, increasing the risk of various health problems

Therefore, it is important to recognize that gum disease is a chronic condition that requires ongoing management.

Periodontal treatment options

–      Non-surgical approaches:

If you are in the early stages of gum disease, your dental team will likely recommend increasing the frequency of your professional dental cleanings called scaling and root planning. These cleanings are essential as they provide a thorough clean that can prevent bacterial build-up along the gum line. Your dentist has the tools to perform a comprehensive cleaning that reaches areas that are difficult to clean at home. These cleanings help prevent the further progression of gum disease. Root planing is a more extensive cleaning that targets the pockets that form around the base of the tooth.

In some cases, your dental team may recommend additional treatments. These may include:

1. Antibiotics: Your dentist may prescribe oral antibiotics or recommend antibacterial mouth rinses or gels to control the infection and support periodontal therapy.

2. Night guards: If you grind or clench your teeth (bruxism), a night guard may be recommended to protect your teeth and gums from further damage.

3. Orthodontic devices: Depending on your specific situation, braces or clear aligners may be recommended to address misalignment issues that contribute to gum disease or make oral hygiene practices challenging

–       Surgical approaches :

If periodontal disease has significantly progressed, surgical intervention may be necessary. Some key surgical treatments include:

1. Soft tissue grafts: These are performed to treat gum recession caused by periodontal disease. Gum tissue is taken from another area of your mouth or a donor source and grafted onto the areas with recession. This helps to restore gum tissue, cover exposed tooth roots, and improve the overall appearance of the gums.

2. Crown lengthening: This surgical procedure involves removing excess gum tissue and, in some cases, bone to expose more of the tooth surface. It is performed when there is insufficient tooth structure above the gum line to support restorations such as dental crowns or bridges.

3. Periodontal pocket reduction surgery: Also known as flap surgery, this procedure is performed to reduce the size of the pockets that form between the teeth and gums in advanced periodontal disease. These surgical interventions aim to improve the health of the gums, reduce pocket depth, and facilitate better oral hygiene practices. They can help control the progression of periodontal disease and promote the regeneration of healthy gum tissue and bone support.

It’s important to note that surgical treatments are typically recommended when non-surgical approaches, such as scaling and root planning, have not been successful or when the disease has advanced significantly.

Visiting the dentist for periodontal disease

You will likely be assessed by a periodontist, a specialist in the treatment of gum diseases. The dentist will ask about the duration of symptoms, oral hygiene practices, dental visits, medical conditions, medications, and tobacco usage. It is important to ask questions and communicate your concerns to make the most of your time with the dentist.

Post-treatment care

After treatment for periodontal disease, it is crucial to maintain good dental health to prevent tooth loss. This includes brushing teeth properly and twice daily (electric toothbrushes are more effective), daily flossing, using prescribed mouth rinses, scheduling regular scaling sessions and dental visits as recommended, and quitting smoking, as it is a significant risk factor for plaque accumulation.

Remember, early detection and treatment of gum disease are vital for preserving oral health and preventing complications.