With its long and fearsome name, periodontal disease has struck fear into the hearts of many dental patients. But in fact, periodontal disease (also known as gum disease) is very easy to prevent through a basic oral hygiene routine. With regular brushing and flossing, you can protect your gums and support your teeth. However, if you neglect your oral hygiene, the bacteria in your mouth may slowly develop into gingivitis and then escalate into periodontal disease. At this stage, brushing and flossing won’t be enough to remedy the situation, and you will need to explore periodontal disease treatment.
Periodontal Disease Treatment
HOW PERIODONTAL DISEASE DEVELOPS
As we mentioned above, periodontal disease is the result of poor oral hygiene. If plaque (a sticky, colorless substance that forms from the bacteria and mucus found naturally in the mouth) is not removed through brushing, over time it will harden into tartar. The longer plaque and tartar sit, the more likely it is that gingivitis (a mild form of gum disease) will develop, characterized by red, swollen gums. At this stage, the damage can be reversed somewhat easily with brushing, flossing, and professional dental cleanings.
If left untreated, however, gingivitis will form into periodontal disease (sometimes called “periodontitis”). The inflammation will increase, and the gums may pull away from the teeth and form pockets. Those pockets can become infected, and (in serious cases) the teeth may loosen and require removal.
SYMPTOMS OF PERIODONTAL DISEASE
So how will you know if you have periodontal disease? First, of course, visit with your dentist for a professional evaluation. That is the only way to know for sure. However, you can also assess your mouth for symptoms of the condition:
- Red, swollen, tender, and/or bleeding gums
- Sensitive teeth
- Pain when you chew
- Persistent bad breath
- Receding gums, exposing more of the teeth
- Loose teeth (and in rare cases, lost teeth)
You are more likely to develop periodontal disease if you engage in certain behaviors or have certain conditions. So if you smoke, take certain medications (steroids, cancer therapy drugs, some anti-epilepsy drugs, etc.), or have poor oral hygiene habits, be on the lookout for symptoms of gingivitis or gum disease. You are also susceptible if you are pregnant, have diabetes, chew tobacco, or have a family history of periodontal disease.
If you do smoke or chew tobacco, periodontal disease is just one more reason to stop. Smoking can greatly increase your risk of periodontal disease, increase its severity, and reduce the likelihood of a successful treatment. It will also make you a bad candidate for some surgical treatments.
PERIODONTAL DISEASE TREATMENT
To treat the inflammation and infection of periodontal disease, several different methods may be used depending on the extent of the damage.
First, prevent and reduce periodontal disease by using good oral hygiene:
- Brush at least twice a day.
- Brush gently and thoroughly.
- Replace your toothbrush as needed.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Use mouthwash (but do not replace brushing or flossing with mouthwash).
- Avoid sticky and sugary foods.
This routine may require a complete overhaul of your habits, especially if the gum disease has progressed to a dire level. Also, remember that you will need to maintain a good oral health routine in the long term if you don’t want your gums to become inflamed and infected again.
Next, of course, you will need to visit your dentist regularly. The dental hygienist will clean your teeth to remove any plaque or tartar, and the dentist will assess your teeth and provide a professional evaluation and advice. If you’re in the early stages of periodontal disease, your dentist can help you regain your oral health with a quick cleaning and some oral hygiene suggestions. If the condition has progressed, however, your dentist may recommend a more substantial treatment.
Common periodontal disease treatment options include the following:
- Scaling: Scaling is performed during most dental appointments. The hygienist scrapes tartar off the tooth both above and below the gum line. Typically this process is quick and painless, but in rare cases, it will require local anesthesia or mild pain medication.
- Root Planing: Root planing removes rough areas on the roots of teeth, so that germs and bacteria cannot gather there.
- Laser Cleaning: Some dentists use a laser to remove plaque and tartar, eliminating bacteria and preventing the advancement of the disease.
- Medications: Medications like antibiotics and enzyme suppressants can be used to control bacteria and treat the infection.
- Flap Surgery: Surgery is used in severe cases to treat lingering inflammation and deep pockets. The gums are lifted, the tartar is removed, and then the tissue is stitched together for a more snug fit.
- Bone and Tissue Grafts: If flap surgery will not suffice, the dentist may use bone or tissue grafts to promote bone growth and tissue regeneration. A tissue graft may also be used to replace lost gum tissue, covering exposed and vulnerable roots.
- Guided Tissue Regeneration: This procedure promotes bone and tissue growth and is typically done in combination with flap surgery. A piece of mesh-like fabric is placed between the bone and gum. This prevents the gum tissue from overtaking the space, allowing the bone and gum tissue to properly regrow with good support.
- Bone Surgery: During flap surgery, bone surgery may be used to smooth the bone and remove craters. The tooth’s reshaping will prevent the collection and growth of bacteria.
Periodontal disease is unfortunately quite common, with about 80% of Americans currently suffering from some stage of the disease. If you’ve noticed that your gums feel sore or red, pay more attention to your brushing and flossing routine, and be sure that you have a dental appointment scheduled within the next few months. If the condition is serious, your dentist will recommend a course of periodontal disease treatment.
Your teeth were meant to last a lifetime, so take care of them! If you’re looking for an experienced, reliable, and friendly dentist in or near Springfield, Missouri, contact Wilkinson Dental. Dr. Wilkinson and his team will give you the personalized treatment you deserve using state-of-the-art technology. Schedule your first appointment today by calling 417-708-0556 or requesting an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!