Do your gums bleed when you brush or floss? Are they red and puffy and sore? Do you constantly suffer from bad breath? Have you noticed that your gums have begun to recede? Have any of your teeth become loose? If you have experienced any or all of these symptoms, you are either in the early stages of gum disease, or you have full-blown periodontal disease.
Even if the only symptom you have is slight bleeding of the gums, there is cause for concern. Healthy gums should NOT bleed…not even when you brush or floss! Any indication of periodontal disease should be reported to your dentist immediately so that appropriate treatment may be administered.
Gum disease is the number one cause of tooth loss among adults. That, in itself, is enough to cause concern and worry. However, more concern may arise from the fact that gum disease has also been linked to much more serious health problems. Included among these health problems are heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancer, and diabetes.
“Periodontal” refers to the support structure of the teeth, which includes alveolar bone, root cement, periodontal ligament, and the gums. Periodontitis (periodontal disease) is a disease that affects one or more of these periodontal tissues.
Gum disease is primarily caused by many strains of bacteria. Other co-factors may play an important role in the development of periodontal disease, although they are not enough to cause the disease.
Certain factors can increase your risk of developing gum disease. These factors include but are not necessarily limited to:
Preventive measures, including good oral hygiene and regular dental visits, can help to lower your risk of gum disease.
Certain signs and symptoms are indicative of periodontal disease. One of the early signs of the onset of this disease is bleeding gums. Healthy gums should never bleed…not even when you brush and floss vigorously. If you notice bleeding of the gums, see your dentist right away for an exam and evaluation.
At the dentist office, your medical and dental history will first be reviewed. Then, a number of tests may be performed to determine whether you have periodontal disease.
During the physical examination of the oral cavity, the gums are closely inspected on the cheek and tongue side of every tooth. The color and shape of the gingival tissue are compared to the ideal qualities of healthy gingival tissue. If probing of gum tissue reveals puffiness, redness, and bleeding, inflammation is present. If the gums between the teeth are blunt rather than pointed, there’s a likelihood that acute periodontal disease has resulted in necrosis (death) of gum tissue.
To further evaluate the presence and progression of periodontal disease, Periodontal Screening and Recording (PSR) is performed to determine how far the disease has advanced. During PSR, a periodontal probe and mirror are used to measure pocket depth of gum tissue around each tooth. This measurement helps to reveal the condition of the connective tissue and the amount of gingival recession.
Tooth mobility is also checked by your dentist during the diagnostic testing for gum disease. Each tooth is pushed between two instrument handles and observed for any movement. Mobility of teeth indicates at least some degree of bone loss.
At some point during the examination, a series of x-rays that capture the full mouth are taken to better evaluate any loss of supporting bone structure.
Once periodontal disease has been diagnosed, proper treatment will be recommended. Our doctor and hygienist will move forward with the proper treatment of your disease. On rare occasion, your case may be too severe that we will have to refer you to a periodontist.
Because periodontal disease can result in tooth loss, it’s very important to receive proper treatment to get the disease under control as soon as the disease has been diagnosed. The sooner treatment is administered, the better the prognosis will be.
The course of treatment for gum disease depends upon the severity of the disease. In its early stage (gingivitis), no major damage of the tissues has yet occurred. Left untreated, however, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis. At this stage, the internal layers of the gums begin to pull away from the teeth, and pockets are formed. Food debris gets caught in these pockets, creating a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Eventually, the bacteria cause the gums to become infected. The teeth and tissues surrounding the teeth begin to break down. Teeth become loose in their sockets, leading to potential tooth loss.
Gingivitis can be stopped by proper brushing, flossing, and routine professional dental cleanings. Plaque that forms from bacteria on teeth and around the gums is the main cause of gingivitis. Removal of this plaque is necessary to prevent the progression of gingivitis to periodontitis.
As gum disease progresses into periodontitis, the plaque that accumulates on the teeth and around the gum tissues begins to calcify into tartar. Deep scaling of the tissues, as well as root planning and polishing of the teeth, become necessary to remove the tartar. Improved oral hygiene is also very important to keep the periodontal disease from progressing even further.
In addition, we may highly recommend additional therapy on top of the root planning and polishing of the teeth. One is the addition of ARESTIN – an antibiotic that is painlessly placed under the infected gum pockets. ARESTIN contains microspheres – tiny, bead-like particles – that are smaller than grains of sand and not visible to the eye. The microspheres are filled with the antibiotic minocycline hydrochloride. The antibiotic is released over time, killing bacteria so your gums can heal better than w/ root planning and polishing alone.
Second therapy is pulse laser therapy. This is where a laser probe is placed under the gum and a pulse of laser is admintered to remove bacteria. This is excellent adjunctive therapy for your gum/periodontal disease.
If left untreated, periodontitis can advance to a stage at which teeth become very mobile and bone loss becomes so severe that removal of the teeth becomes necessary to clear the infection.
The best course of action against periodontal disease is to prevent it before it begins! Brush and floss your teeth often. Visit our dentist for regular checkups and cleanings. If a problem arises, seek treatment immediately. Don’t risk unnecessary tooth loss!