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Periodontal (Gum) Disease

What is periodontal disease?

This disease is the cause of about 70 % of adult tooth loss, affecting 3 out of 4 persons at some point in life. The main cause of gum disease is bacterial plaque, a soft, sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on our teeth. If plaque is not removed, it hardens into a rough, porous deposit called calculus, or tartar. Toxins (or poisons) produced by bacteria living in plaque irritate the gums and can make them red, tender, swollen and more likely to bleed easily. As gum disease progresses, the toxins can lead to destruction of the bone and soft tissues that support the teeth, forming pockets that fill with more bacteria, toxins, and tartar. Untreated, the bone loss will continue to progress, until the teeth become loose and are eventually lost. Thorough removal of soft plaque by brushing and flossing, and professional “scalings” to remove soft plaque and hard tartar deposits below the gumline, can minimize the risk and usually stop the progression of gum disease.

What does periodontal treatment involve?

The dentist will perform a comprehensive examination of your mouth . This will include looking at color and firmness of your gums, studying which teeth are loose, and measuring how much gum tissue and bone support has been lost. Necessary radiographs will be taken to evaluate the bone supporting teeth.

What is “scaling and root planing”?

In the early stages, most of the treatment involves “scaling and root planing”, which means removing plaque and calculus from the pockets around the tooth and smoothing the root surfaces. In most cases of early gum disease, scaling, root planing and regular daily cleaning of teeth is all that is required for successful treatment.

Does it involve surgical treatment?

More advance cases may require surgical treatment. The goals are to remove calculus from deep gum pockets around the teeth, shrink the gum pockets (when practical), smooth root surfaces and arrange gum tissue into a shape that will be easier to clean. The dentist’s goal is to improve your oral health, minimize tooth loss, and stabilize/help you maintain your periodontal health. Improved equipment, local anesthetics and modern techniques make periodontal treatment more comfortable now than ever before. Like other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma, there is no cure. Periodontal surgery helps control disease and prevent further destruction of gums and supporting bone, thereby minimizing tooth loss.

What are the benefits of periodontal treatment?

Treating gum problems will help you achieve oral health, improve overall health, and help prevent tooth loss. In fact, with prompt treatment, proper home care and regular periodontal maintenance visits, the majority of patients can keep their teeth for a lifetime.

What are the signs of gum disease?

Loose or separating teeth. Red, swollen or tender gums. Bleeding gums during tooth brushing or flossing. Teeth that look longer than they used to. Gums that have pulled away from teeth.        Pus between teeth and gums. A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite. Persistent bad breath or bad taste in mouth. A change in the fit of partial dentures.

You may have gum disease and not have any warning signs. In most cases, gum disease is not painful until it reaches advanced stages. Gum disease often goes unnoticed– it is sometimes referred to as a “silent disease”.

Other factors that might contribute to gum disease.

Although bacterial plaque and calculus is the primary cause of periodontal disease, other factors can affect the health of your gums. Lifestyle decisions such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use influence your oral health. Diabetes is a common disease which is of major importance in periodontal disease. A diet low in nutrients can diminish your body’s ability to fight infection. Stress can also affect your ability to ward off disease. Health conditions such as leukemia and AIDS in their latter stages, where the body is more prone to infection, gum disease is usually more severe and more difficult to control. Hormonal changes due to pregnancy increase the blood supply to certain tissues in the body, including the gums. As a result, 30 to 60 percent of pregnant woman experience red, tender or bleeding gums. Pre-existing gum disease, even in early stages, can make these symptoms more severe. Some drugs, such as oral contraceptives, antidepressants and certain heart medications, can affect your oral health. Discuss any medications you are taking with your  dentist.

How can gum disease be prevented?

You play the major role in preventing periodontal disease. To keep your teeth for a lifetime, you must remove bacterial plaque from your teeth by conscientious brushing and flossing everyday. Daily use of your toothbrush and floss will keep the formation of hard calculus (tartar) to a minimum, but won’t completely prevent it. Calculus removal is called scaling and many dentists use an ultrasonic machine that vibrates the calculus off the teeth using sound waves. The dentist will remove hardened calculus in places that your cleaning have missed.

The treatment of gum disease.

In early stages, treatment involves scaling and root planing. This treatment allows the gum to adapt itself back to the tooth, as well as reduce the depth of the pockets. With proper daily cleaning, this is all that is required. More advanced cases may require surgical intervention. This is to gain access to deep areas for removal of calculus, shrink the pockets and arrange gum tissue into a shape that will be easier to keep clean. In advance cases involving loose teeth, the dentist may need to brace your teeth with temporary splints or place a plastic bite plate. The disease can and will recur if you do not follow a strict program of supportive periodontal therapy. Nothing will help you maintain the results of professional treatment better than daily removal of soft plaque by proper brushing, flossing and other plaque control methods.  By retaining your natural teeth, you can chew more comfortably and enjoy better digestion. You also keep a healthy smile, which is a natural asset to your appearance. For feeling good and looking good, nothing works better than your natural teeth