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Understanding gum therapy and the disease

While you may think
that some loss of teeth is inevitable with aging, it is actually
possible for all of your teeth to last a lifetime. One of the ways you
can achieve this goal is to avoid periodontal disease (“peri” – around;
“odont” – tooth), which is caused by bacteria that attack the tissues
around the teeth. Unfortunately, you may not even realize you have gum
disease as the signs and symptoms are not always as apparent to you as
they are to a dental professional.


Nearly all people who do not
maintain good daily oral hygiene will develop gingivitis. If left
untreated, this bacterial gum infection can progress from gingivitis
(“gingival” – gum; “itis” – inflammation) to periodontitis, which
results in bone loss around your teeth. As the bone tissue is lost, the
gum tissues detach from the teeth and form little pockets that provide
an even better place for bacteria to live — where your brush and floss
can't reach. As periodontal disease advances leading to more bone loss,
tooth loss can result. Part of this has to do with genetics, as
periodontal disease tends to run in families. The good news is that
periodontal disease can be controlled, even at more advanced stages.


Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease

It's
important to understand that you can have periodontal disease with no
obvious symptoms, especially if you are a smoker (nicotine reduces blood
supply preventing bleeding and swelling of the gum tissues). Still,
there are some important things to look for:


· Bleeding
gums — Some people think that when their gums bleed, it simply means
they're brushing too hard. While brushing too hard is bad for the gums,
it should not cause bleeding. Any bleeding of the gums should be
considered a warning sign of gum disease

· Bad breath —
It's very easy for plaque to collect in the spaces between the teeth,
creating the perfect living conditions for bacteria that produce
odorous, sulfur-containing compounds, resulting in bad breath

· Redness or swelling of the gums — Inflammation of the gums is usually the first visible sign of periodontal disease
·
Receding gums — If you notice that your teeth look longer than
they used to, it may be that your gum tissue has receded (away from the
enamel), exposing some of your tooth roots

· Sensitivity — If there is gum recession, the exposed roots may become sensitive to hot or cold
·
Periodontal abscess — Bacteria can become enclosed in a
periodontal pocket and the area will fill with pus, becoming swollen and
painful

· Loose teeth — When periodontal disease results
in bone loss, teeth can become loose or migrate. Tooth loss can result
and may be accelerated if you are applying excessive biting forces from
clenching or grinding your teeth.


Treatment Options

All
periodontal therapy starts with the evaluation of your oral hygiene
techniques and instruction for improving them, followed by the
mechanical removal of plaque and any calcified deposits (tartar or
calculus) that are present on the root surfaces. This is accomplished
with a cleaning technique known as scaling, root planing or debridement
using hand instruments and/or ultrasonic (high frequency vibrational)
instruments. Locally applied antimicrobial products or antibiotics might
also be recommended during various parts of periodontal treatment to
assist in healing and pocket-depth reduction, hopefully eliminating the
need for periodontal surgery. Sometimes surgical procedures may be
necessary to remove the deep pockets that form between inflamed gum
tissue and teeth. There are many different types of surgery to handle a
variety of problems. And many times, combinations of procedures are used
to attempt to reduce the number of surgeries as well as the cost of
treatment.


Periodontal Disease & Your Overall Health

Periodontal
disease starts in your mouth but has actually been linked to more
serious conditions, such as cardio-vascular disease (CVD), diabetes and
preterm births. Research has suggested two plausible mechanisms for how
gum disease and these other serious medical concerns could be related:
moderate to severe periodontal disease increases the level of systemic
(bodily) inflammation — a characteristic of all chronic inflammatory
diseases. Also, the same bacterial strains that are commonly found in
periodontal pockets surrounding diseased teeth have been found in blood
vessel plaques of individuals with CVD. Therefore, it may be helpful to
reduce periodontal inflammation to reduce systemic inflammation.


Preventive Strategies

The
best way to prevent periodontal disease is to brush and floss your
teeth effectively every day. Regular dental checkups and professional
cleanings every 3 or 4 or 6 months are also an important part of
maintaining periodontal health; the instruments and techniques used in
these cleanings can reach into areas that your toothbrush and floss
can't.


It is also possible to detect early forms of gum disease
by evaluating your gingival (gum) tissues, both visually and by
examining their attachment levels to the teeth. And the health of your
tooth-supporting bone can be assessed by taking dental radiographs
(x-rays pictures).


There are other steps you can take: Eating
right, reducing stress in your life, and giving up unhealthy habits like
smoking will also help ensure that you keep your teeth for a lifetime.
 For a consultation, please contact our
periodontist for more
information.