Gum disease or periodontal disease, a chronic inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding tissue, is the major cause of about 70 percent of adult tooth loss, affecting three out of four persons at some point in their life.
What causes gum disease?
Bacterial plaque - a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on the teeth - is recognized as the primary cause of gum disease. Specific periodontal diseases may be associated with specific bacterial types. If plaque isn't removed each day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into a rough, porous substance called calculus (also known as tartar). Toxins (poisons) produced and released by bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. These toxins cause the breakdown of the fibers that hold the gums tightly to the teeth, creating periodontal pockets which fill with even more toxins and bacteria. As the disease progresses, pockets extend deeper and the bacteria moves down until the bone that holds the tooth in place is destroyed. The tooth eventually will fall out or require extraction.
Are there other factors?
Yes. Genetics is also a factor, as are lifestyle choices. A diet low in nutrients can diminish the body's ability to fight infection. Smokers and spit tobacco users have more irritation to gum tissues than non-tobacco users, while stress can also affect the ability to ward off disease. Diseases that interfere with the body's immune system, such as leukemia and AIDS, may worsen the condition of the gums. In patients with uncontrolled diabetes, where the body is more prone to infection, gum disease is more severe or harder to control.
What are the warning signs of gum disease?
Signs include red, swollen or tender gums, bleeding while brushing or flossing, gums that pull away from teeth, loose or separating teeth, puss between the gum and tooth, persistent bad breath, change in the way teeth fit together when the patient bites, and a change in the fit of partial dentures. While patients are advised to check for the warning signs, there might not be any discomfort until the disease has spread to a point where the tooth is unsaleable. That's why patients are advised to get frequent dental exams.
What does periodontal treatment involve?
In the early stages, most treatment involves scaling and root planing-removing plaque and calculus around the tooth and smoothing the root surfaces. More advanced cases may require surgical treatment, which involves cutting the gums, and removing the hardened plaque build-up and recon touring the damaged bone. The procedure is also designed to smooth root surfaces and re-position the gum tissue so it will be easier to keep clean.
How do you prevent gum disease?
Removing plaque through daily brushing, flossing and professional cleaning is the best way to minimize your risk.
What is the role of the general dentist?
The general dentist usually detects gum disease and treats it in the early stages. Some general dentists have acquired additional expertise to treat more advanced conditions of the disease. If the general dentist believes that the gum disease requires treatment by a specialist, then The dentist and periodontist will work together to formulate a treatment plan for the patient.
Is maintenance important?
Sticking to a regular oral hygiene regimen is crucial for patients who want to sustain the results of therapy. Patients should visit the dentist every 3-4 months (or more, depending on the patient) for spot scaling and root planing and an overall.
Following are some of the procedures that periodontists use to treat patients diagnosed with a periodontal (gum) disease. The main cause of periodontal disease is bacteria in the form of a sticky, colorless plaque that constantly forms on your teeth; however, many other factors can cause periodontal (gum) disease or influence its progression.
- Scaling and Root Planing
- Pocket Depth Reduction
- Crown Lengthening & Gingioplasty
Non-Surgical Treatments - Scaling and Root Planing
Scaling and Root Planing is the first treatment for periodontal disease. It removes all of the irritants under the gums to eliminate inflammation and infection. Half of the mouth may be numbed so that the we can comfortably remove hardened food from below the gums. This is called scaling and it's like removing the scales from a fish. Most hygienists also use ultrasonic vibrating tools to blast deposits off of teeth. It leaves a rough surface so planing is needed.
Like a carpenter planes a door to make it smooth. we surgically planes the root surfaces which allows the gums to regenerate without irritation. The gum tissue shrinks and tightens around the teeth because there is no longer anything irritating. It also reduces bleeding gums. After scaling and root planing is completed the gums heal and the results determined by charting the patient's pocket depth. The goal is a 1 to 3 mm thickness.
In some patients, scaling and root planing is the only treatment needed. It can often eliminate the inflamation and infection that promotes the tissue destruction around teeth from periodontal disease. Because it's a non-surgical treatment, patients often feel comfortable with it, however, it is most effective is treating early periodontal disease.
If you're diagnosed with periodontal disease, your periodontist may recommend periodontal surgery. Periodontal surgery is necessary when your periodontist determines that the tissue around your teeth is unhealthy and cannot be repaired with non-surgical treatment. Following are the four types of surgical treatments most commonly prescribed:
- Pocket Reduction Procedures
- Regenerative Procedures
- Crown Lengthening
Pocket Depth Reduction
Your bone and gum tissue should fit snugly around your teeth like a turtleneck around your neck. When you have periodontal disease, this supporting tissue and bone is destroyed, forming "pockets" around the teeth.
Over time, these pockets become deeper, providing a larger space for bacteria to live. As bacteria develop around the teeth, they can accumulate and advance under the gum tissue. These deep pockets collect even more bacteria, resulting in further bone and tissue loss. Eventually, if too much bone is lost, the teeth will need to be extracted.
A pocket reduction procedure has been recommended because you have pockets that are too deep to clean with daily at-home oral hygiene and a professional care routine.
During this procedure, your periodontist folds back the gum tissue and removes the disease-causing bacteria before securing the tissue into place. In some cases, irregular surfaces of the damaged bone are smoothed to limit areas where disease-causing bacteria can hide. This allows the gum tissue to better reattach to healthy bone.
What are the benefits of this procedure?
Reducing pocket depth and eliminating existing bacteria are important to prevent damage caused by the progression of periodontal disease and to help you maintain a healthy smile. Eliminating bacteria alone may not be sufficient to prevent disease recurrence. Deeper pockets are more difficult for you and your dental care professional to clean, so it's important for you to reduce them. Reduced pockets and a combination of daily oral hygiene and professional maintenance care increase your chances of keeping your natural teeth - and decrease the chance of serious health problems associated with periodontal disease.
Your bone and gum tissue should fit snugly around your teeth like a turtleneck around your neck. When you have periodontal disease, this supporting tissue and bone is destroyed and pockets develop. Eventually, if too much bone is lost, the teeth will need to be extracted.
Your periodontist may recommend a regenerative procedure when the bone supporting your teeth has been destroyed. These procedures can reverse some of the damage by regenerating lost bone and tissue.
During this procedure, your periodontist folds back the gum tissue and removes the disease-causing bacteria. Membranes (filters), bone grafts or tissue- stimulating proteins can be used to encourage your body's natural ability to regenerate bone and tissue.
There are many options to enhance support for your teeth and to restore your bone to a healthy level. Your periodontist will discuss your best options with you.
What are the benefits of this procedure?
Eliminating existing bacteria and regenerating bone and tissue helps to reduce pocket depth and repair damage caused by the progression of periodontal disease. With a combination of daily oral hygiene and professional maintenance care, you'll increase the chances of keeping your natural teeth - and decrease the chances of serious health problems associated with periodontal disease.
Crown Lengthening & Gingioplasty
Periodontal procedures are available to lay the groundwork for restorative and cosmetic dentistry and/or to improve the esthetics of your gum line.
You may have asked your periodontist about procedures to improve a "gummy" smile because your teeth appear short. Your teeth may actually be the proper lengths, but they're covered with too much gum tissue. To correct this, your periodontist performs crown lengthening.
During this procedure, excess gum and bone tissue is reshaped to expose more of the natural tooth. This can be done to one tooth, to even your gum line, or to several teeth to expose a natural, broad smile.
Your dentist or periodontist may also recommend crown lengthening to make a restorative or cosmetic dental procedure possible. Perhaps your tooth is decayed, broken below the gum line, or has insufficient tooth structure for a restoration, such as a crown or bridge. Crown lengthening adjusts the gum and bone level to expose more of the tooth so it can be restored.
What are the benefits of this procedure?
Whether you have crown lengthening to improve function or esthetics, patients often receive the benefits of both: a beautiful new smile and improved periodontal health - your keys to smiling, eating and speaking with comfort and confidence.