What is it?
Gum disease is a range of conditions which affects the gums and supporting tissues around the teeth. The medical term that best describes this condition is “periodontal disease”.
Gum disease can be split into two broad categories:
1. Gingivitis: This is the inflammation of the upper layer of the gums. his is generally caused by plaque that has built up over a period of time owing to poor flossing or brushing.
2. Periodontitis: This is inflammation of a more serious nature of the gums and supporting tissues around the teeth. If left untreated, bone loss can occur, which can then lead to loosening and/or loss of teeth.
What are the signs of potential gum disease?
- Bleeding of the gums
- Sensitive teeth
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Gum recession
- Experiencing a metallic taste in your mouth
What are the causes of periodontitis?
Periodontitis is a result of the deteriorating condition of gingivitis. Poor dental hygiene leads to building up of tartar and plaque near the gumline, causing inflammation. Because the initial stages of plaque buildup doesn’t cause any pain, people tend to overlook it, allowing it to worsen over time. If you leave gingivitis untreated it will progress to periodontitis where the supporting bones of the teeth get eaten away. This will further lead to loosening of the teeth and puts forth a potential threat to the surrounding teeth.
Smoking, diabetes and family history are risk factors for periodontitis. Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, missing or loose teeth are also considered to be important contributors to periodontitis.
When gum disease is left unattended or untreated, it will also affect general health. Periodontitis is linked with greater incidence of stroke and cardiovascular diseases. In the case of pregnant female patients, it may also cause premature birth or low birth weight. Therefore regular therapy for periodontal disease with your dental hygienist becomes critical in maintaining oral and systemic health.
How do I know if I have gum disease?
Unfortunately the majority of the patients who come to us who suffer from gingivitis and are not aware of their condition. The main reason being is that it is totally painless. For the majority of people, a simple scale and clean along with improved oral hygiene can reverse the effects of gingivitis before it progresses.
During a scale and clean of your teeth, our dental hygienist will take special care to detect any problems with the condition of your gums. Depending on the patient, a scale and clean can be either very quick for those with good gum health, or longer for those needing extra attention.
Can the condition of gum disease be treated completely?
We can help stop the progress of gum disease by providing periodontal therapy and oral hygiene instruction. However, advanced periodontal disease may be harder to fix as the bony attachment of affected teeth may be severely damaged. It is crucial that the condition be detected and treated early. Prevention is always better than a cure.
Stage 1: Initial stage treatment & prevention
Even if you have healthy teeth, we strongly recommend that you go in for a professional checkup once every six months. You can go in for a scale and clean with our dental hygienists to ensure that these gum related problems are detected early and are treated effectively. Our hygienists will do a thorough examination and give you advice on how you can maintain good dental health. Flossing before brushing should also become a daily ritual that you do to prevent gum disease.
Stage 2: Moderate gum disease
This is the stage where gum disease has gone beyond simple treatment. These are the cases that have gone unnoticed or left untreated for a long period of time which has led to further buildup of inflammation and tartar underneath the gumline. Such cases call for a detailed analysis of the gums, called “periodontal charting”. Generally, the patient has to visit the dentist more often to get their gums treated. In some rare cases, the patient has to go for the surgical approach where a small incision is made in the gums so that the dentist can directly access and remove the tartar and plaque. They will then irrigate the area thoroughly, and then suture the gums into position. Such cases are handled only by our most experienced of dentists.
Stage 3: Severe Gum Disease
This is a stage where the damage has gone beyond repair. The condition of periodontitis in this stage is so severe that most of the surrounding teeth have also lost the attachment in the gums and the jaw bone. There is no other option but to remove the affected teeth in such a condition.
When the disease of the gum has gone too far or is occurring along with other dental problems, the condition is called “terminal dentition”. In such a case we strongly recommend removal of the teeth followed by prosthetic replacement. In earlier times, prosthetic replacement meant dentures. Now with the help of dental implant technology, all the limitations that are associated with dentures are successfully avoided.
For those patients who qualify for dental implants, our implant specialist Dr. Strangio will provide solutions by offering a full smile reconstruction to the patient who is in the stage of terminal dentition.
Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, we encourage you to discuss these matters with an appropriately qualified health practitioner.