If you have been diagnosed with gum disease, you’re not alone. About 80% of American adults experience some form of gum (periodontal) disease, which can range from simple inflammation to more serious diseases that can cause major damage to the soft tissue and bones that support your teeth. Gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss, and is linked to other chronic diseases, like heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, pneumonia, and various forms of cancer.
It may sound alarming, but it’s never too late to start taking better care of your gums. The progression of your gum disease—whether it goes away, slows down, or gets worse—depends on what you do to manage your oral health. Here’s what you need to know.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Our mouths are full of bacteria. Some of it is good, but some types of bacteria mix with your saliva to form a sticky, colorless or yellowish substance on your teeth called plaque. Brushing and flossing helps to get rid of plaque, but if you don’t brush and floss on a regular basis, your plaque will harden and form tartar, which can’t be cleaned by just brushing. Tartar can cause cavities in your teeth and infect your gums. The longer you leave it untreated, the more harmful it becomes to your mouth and overall health.
To help minimize your risk and keep your mouth healthy, floss your teeth every day. Maintaining a regular flossing habit keeps dangerous bacteria from growing between your teeth, where it can easily move into your gums and cause infection.
Other factors that could contribute to gum disease are smoking, diabetes and certain other illnesses, hormonal changes, certain medications, and genetics. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for the common symptoms of gum disease: constant bad breath, red, swollen, or tender gums, difficulty chewing, sensitive teeth, loose teeth, and receding gums.
If you notice some or all of these symptoms, contact your local dentist to set up an appointment immediately.
What Gum Disease Treatments are Available?
- Deep cleaning (scaling and root planing)
Initially, a dentist can try to remove disease-causing plaque and tartar using a deep cleaning method called “scaling and root planing.” Scaling is the act of scraping tartar off the gum line at the tops and bottoms of your teeth. Root planing removes rough or damaged spots on the roots of your teeth, where germs and harmful bacteria collect.
Medications can be used in addition to other treatments, but usually cannot take the place of surgery. Dentists might prescribe things like antimicrobial mouth rinse, antiseptic and antibiotic rinses and gels, oral antibiotics (pills), and enzyme suppressants (certain enzymes can break down gum tissue), but for many gum disease patients, surgery is necessary.
- Laser Periodontal Therapy™
Here at My Family Dentistry, our own Dr. Mullins is licensed to practiceLaser Periodontal Therapy™, a minimally-invasive method of treating gum disease. LPT is the only laser-assisted procedure certified by the FDA for treatment of periodontitis (gum disease). This means that we can successfully treat you for gum disease without scalpels or sutures.
With LPT, the healing and recovery is generally much faster and more comfortable than traditional gum surgery. Unlike traditional surgery, it includes no cutting or stitches, virtually no pain, and very little recovery time.
If inflammation and diseased tissue remain after treatment with deep cleaning and medication, a dentist might recommend a gingivectomy—the surgical removal of gum tissue. A gingivectomy is necessary when the gums have pulled away from the teeth, creating deep pockets where tartar deposits form. The procedure involves removing and reshaping loose, diseased tissue to get rid of those deep pockets. Then the gums are sutured back into place so they will heal around the tooth.
- Tissue Regeneration
If the gum disease progresses enough without proper treatment, a gingivectomy might not be enough to get rid of all the infection. If you lose too much tissue and bone to deep pockets, tartar deposits, and decay, you might want to consider tissue regeneration to reverse some of that damage.
After pulling back the gums to remove the damaged tissue, your periodontist can place artificial membranes, bone and gum tissue grafts, or other tissue-stimulating proteins that help your body heal and regenerate the lost bone and tissue.
What Gum Disease Treatment is Best for Me?
It varies from patient to patient. The only way to find out is to contact your dentist—they can examine the progression of your gum disease and help you figure out the best treatment for your body.
At My Family Dentistry, we work hard to treat gum disease and keep our patients healthy. Contact us to schedule an appointment and learn more ways to ensure your oral health.