Periodontal Disease & Gum Disease
Periodontal disease is what we call gum disease. It is a combination of the damaging presence of plaque on your teeth as well as your body's response to the plaque that causes inflammation and damage to your gums, periodontal ligaments, and alveolar bone. The earliest indicator of periodontal disease is known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease that consists of swollen gums that bleed easily. From there, gingivitis can develop into more severe gum disease that destroys gum-tissue and can eventually lead to tooth loss.
Gum disease is usually painless so it is important to be aware of the symptoms including gums that easily bleed while brushing or flossing, swollen or tender gums, gums that recede down away from the tooth, loose teeth, persistent bad breath, and sensitivity to cold or hot food and drinks. For more information, you can see Colgate's page titled what is periodontal disease.
Periodontics is the specialized dental focus of the gums, inflammatory disease, and other aspects that impact the gums as well as other structures surrounding the teeth. Periodontal treatment includes not only therapeutic approaches but also cosmetic procedures such as dental implant surgery.
Causes of Gum Disease
The primary cause of gum disease is improper oral hygiene. It should be noted that there may be some genetic or other health factors that contribute to gum disease. Also, smoking and tobacco use, as well as dietary preferences that prove damaging to teeth can directly impact the arrival of periodontitis. Gum disease can be prevented by maintaining healthy oral hygiene habits. Brushing at least twice a day, flossing regularly, and frequent trips to the dentist for cleanings will help protect you against all stages of gum disease.
Gum Disease Solutions
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Periodontal Treatment: Cleaning & Scaling
If periodontal disease is diagnosed, the next step is to eliminate the problem. To combat the existing disease and prevent the spread of bacteria causing the illness dentists will perform what is known as a deep cleaning. A dental deep cleaning consists of thorough cleaning of the teeth and the removal of plaque and bacteria beneath the gum line. The methods utilized for a deep cleaning include teeth scaling and root planing. The scaling involves a dentist or hygienist manually removing bacteria with dental instruments.
Once all the plaque and tartar is removed, they continue the cleaning process by performing a root planing. The planing smooths the roots of each tooth to discourage the future attachment of bacteria. The deep cleaning eliminates the plaque and tartar that causes gum disease and allows for the gums to begin reattaching themselves in their original placement. After commencement of the cleaning, an antibiotic may be prescribed to promote healing and destroy any remaining bacteria or that of which may have entered the bloodstream through the mouth.
What is a pocket reading?
A periodontal pocket reading is the measuring of the depth of a pocket that your gums form around your teeth. If your gums are healthy, they should fit snugly around each tooth. Plaque and tartar accumulation, as well as advanced gum disease, can cause inflammation and deepen the periodontal pocket around your teeth. Think of it as a loose sock that does not fit as snug to your foot as it previously had.
The pocket deepening allows for more bacteria to seep in creating, even more, problems that could eventually lead to tooth loss. To measure the severity of gum disease dental professionals perform “pocket readings.” The reading consists of placing a thin rod in between your gums and teeth and measuring the depth. On the rod are lines indicating the length of measurement in millimeters. If the pocket depth is determined to be worrisome, the damage can be repaired by additional brushing, flossing, and dental deep cleaning. All the plaque and tartar must be removed to provide time for the gums to heal and fasten tightly to the teeth. Here is more information on periodontal pockets.
Frequently periodontal cleanings may not be enough to correct moderate to severe cases of gum disease. If the damage is significant surgery may be required to heal, correct, or replace the gums and other surrounding tissue and bone. Pocket reduction surgery, crown lengthening, gum shaping, and grafts are types of therapeutic and cosmetic gum procedures.
Flap surgery is a type of pocket reduction surgery that is designed to reach deep trouble areas and allows them to be cleaned and repaired. The "flap" refers to incisions made to the gums that allow it to remain partially attached, while also permitting the dental surgeon to access areas at the base of the tooth and its roots. For more information see the mayo clinics page on periodontitis.
Crown lengthening is a cosmetic procedure that pulls the gums down away from the teeth to create the desired appearance.
Gum shaping is another cosmetic maneuver that smooths or softens the gums to create the appearance you want.
Grafts are corrective surgeries that replace lost or damaged soft tissue or bone with new and healthy substitutes. The grafts can be obtained from a different area of the same region (bone or tissue from a similar area of the mouth), from a donor, or if applicable from a synthetic source.
Periodontal surgery may be required in severe cases or may be sought out for visual improvement. It is important to seek the advice of an experienced dental professional to see if any oral surgeries are right for you.