Gum care is an important factor in oral and overall health. Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease is an inflammatory condition affecting the tissues surrounding a tooth.
Did you know that periodontal disease is the # 1 cause of tooth loss among American adults?
Gum disease is caused by the bacteria in plaque, the sticky colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth.
If not removed through daily brushing and flossing, plaque can build up and lead to the infection of your gums and teeth.
Eventually, if plaque build-up progresses, it can affect the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth, leading to tooth loss.
Signs of Gum Disease
As plaque continues to build without proper cleaning, gums become infected and the bone tends to recede.
Teeth may become sensitive as the root becomes exposed, and pus may be produced and pockets may form between the gum and tooth.
These processes are not visible to the naked eye, and if left undetected, may contribute to tooth loss. For this reason, it is important to visit your dentist regularly so they can look for the following signs of gum disease:
- Bleeding gums during tooth brushing or otherwise
- Sensitive, red or swollen gums
- Bad breath
- Teeth that are loose or appear to have shifted
Three Stages of Gum Disease:
Gingivitis, Periodontitis, and Advanced Periodontitis.
The earliest of the stages of gum disease, gingivitis is inflammation of the gums caused by plaque buildup at the gumline.
If routine brushing and flossing do not remove the plaque, it produces toxins that can irritate the gum tissue. This is an early stage in gum disease and can be reversed with proper treatment.
If your teeth get to this stage, it means that the supporting bone and fibers that hold your teeth in place are irreversibly damaged.
A pocket that traps food and plaque may have been formed in the gums below the gumline, and only proper dental treatment and improved home care can prevent further damage.
The final stage of gum disease, the fibers and bone supporting your teeth are destroyed, which can cause your teeth to shift or loosen. If aggressive treatment can’t save your teeth, they may need to be removed.
As you can see gum disease is a potentially bad and avoidable occurrence that can be remedied with routine dental care. If you are showing any of the above symptoms contact your dentist before your condition progresses.
Treating Gum Disease
Depending on the stage of your gum disease will dictate the level of treatment necessary.
In order to determine the best options for your personal needs, your dentist or periodontist will first need to perform an extensive evaluation of your gums to develop a plan.
A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease and who has received extensive training in these areas.
The following are a list of the treatments available to remedy the effects of gum disease:
Non-Surgical Treatments- Modern dentistry stresses that periodontal health should be achieved in the least invasive and most cost-effective manner possible.
This is often accomplished by non-surgical treatments including scaling and root planning, a cleaning of the root surfaces to remove plaque and tartar from deep periodontal pockets and to smooth the tooth root to remove bacterial toxins, followed by adjunctive therapy such as local delivery antimicrobials and host modulation, as needed on a case-by-case basis.
In the event that non-surgical therapy does not achieve the desired results, surgery may be necessary to restore the gums that have been damaged by periodontal disease.
Advanced Periodontal Treatments- If your dentist or periodontist determines that the use of non-surgical treatments cannot repair your teeth periodontal surgery may be needed. The most common types of surgical treatments are explained below:
- Laser Therapy- Laser therapy may be used in conjunction with scaling and root planning to improve the effectiveness of this procedure. However, there is limited research that suggests that this type of procedure is effective in restoring connective tissue damaged as a result of gum disease.
- Pocket Elimination Surgery- Pocket Reduction Surgery is performed because you have pockets that are too deep to clean with daily at-home oral hygiene and a professional care routine. To remove the disease-causing bacteria your periodontist will fold back your gum tissue to reduce the pocket gap between the teeth and gums.
- Tissue Regeneration- Tissue regeneration involves grafting the bone to offer a better chance of bone re-growth. This may reduce further recession and bone loss as well as improve function or esthetics.
Risks of Gum Disease
Gum Disease Links to Heart Disease and Stroke
Research has found that people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease.
There are several theories that exist that attempt to explain the link between periodontal disease and heart disease.
One theory suggests that oral bacteria can affect the heart when they enter the bloodstream, attaching to fatty plaques in the arteries and contributing to clot formation.
Coronary artery disease is caused by the thickening of the walls of the coronary arteries due to the buildup of fatty acids.
Blood clots obstruct the normal flow of blood and lead to neglecting the heart of necessary amounts of nutrients and oxygen required to function properly. This can eventually lead to heart attacks.
Another theory is that the inflammation caused by periodontal disease increases plaque buildup, which may be a contributor to swelling of the arteries.
Research shows that people with periodontal disease are almost two times as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without the condition.
There are other studies that link a relationship between gum disease and stroke.
Research has found that a look at the causal relationship between oral disease as a risk factor for stroke shows that people with periodontal disease were more likely to be victims of stroke.
According to the American Academy of Periodontology, pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be seven times more likely to have a baby that is born prematurely and too small.
Research suggests that periodontal disease increases levels of biological fluids that induce labor.
Additionally, women whose periodontal condition worsens during pregnancy have an even higher risk of having a premature baby.
Doctor’s recommend that women considering pregnancy have a periodontal evaluation as a precaution because of the link periodontal disease may pose to the health of a baby