With state-of-the-art periodontal care options available at Thompson Center for Dentistry, our dental team can reduce the effects of gum disease and improve your oral health. Periodontal disease (gum disease) occurs when bacteria infects the soft tissues that surround the teeth. The condition can get progressively worse if left untreated, ultimately leading to potential tooth loss and increased risks to both oral and general health. In fact, gum disease has been linked to life-threatening conditions such as stroke, heart disease, and even dementia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that half of Americans over the age of 30 have periodontitis, which is an advanced stage of gum disease. Fortunately, gum disease at virtually any stage can be successfully treated with procedures designed to reduce the infection and slow its progression.
What Are the Causes of Gum Disease?
Gum disease can develop at any age, and can even affect individuals who have taken excellent care of their oral health throughout their lives. The condition often starts when a build-up of bacteria in oral tissues leads to the formation of plaque, and then hardens into a substance called calculus, commonly referred to as “tartar.” While daily brushing and flossing can be effective at removing plaque before it develops into calculus, some of it is in very hard-to-reach areas, and can eventually result in a continuous build-up of calculus around the teeth. Regular professional dental cleanings can be very effective at removing plaque and hardened calculus; however, when gum disease has progressed to a certain point, a more extensive periodontal treatment may be necessary to prevent the condition from causing further harm.
Factors That Can Lead to Periodontal Disease
Several factors can lead to the development of periodontal disease. Individuals who have poor oral hygiene habits and who infrequently visit the dentist for check-ups and cleanings are typically at greater risk of suffering from gum disease. Other contributing factors include bruxism (teeth clenching/grinding), nutritional deficiencies, hormonal changes, tobacco use, and certain types of illnesses and medical treatments.
What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?
Gum disease can produce a number of noticeable symptoms; however, it is important to note that the condition may be present without exhibiting any signs at all. This makes it even more vital to ensure that you visit the dentist regularly for routine check-ups and professional dental cleanings.
The symptoms of gum disease may include:
- Gums that are swollen or inflamed
- Bleeding gums
- Gum sensitivity
- Gum recession
- The development of “deep pockets” between the teeth and gums, allowing additional bacteria to form
- Loose/shifting teeth
- A pus or fluid discharge emanating from the gumline or between the teeth
- A change in the way the mouth bites down
- Chronic bad breath
- A bad taste in the mouth
- Tooth loss
- Dentures that do not fit as comfortably as they did before
If you suspect you may have symptoms of gum disease, please contact us today to schedule an oral exam. One of our experienced dentists can determine whether you are suffering from the condition and talk with you about treatment options that can help.
What Are the Stages of Gum Disease?
When gum disease is diagnosed, it is categorized by its stage of severity. The stages of gum disease include:
While gingivitis is the earliest, least severe stage of gum disease, it is no less important that the condition be quickly treated. Although gingivitis may produce no visible symptoms in some cases, this stage of periodontal disease often leads to gums that easily bleed while brushing and flossing. Gum disease at the gingivitis stage typically indicates that bone and connective tissues securing the teeth in place are not yet affected by the bacteria; therefore, gingivitis can usually be reversed with treatment before it can develop into a more serious condition.
Periodontitis is diagnosed when gum disease has progressed past the gingivitis stage and has begun to produce irreversible damage to connective tissue and bone. This level of periodontal disease may result in the formation of deep pockets that trap plaque and food below the gumline. Noticeable gum recession and other symptoms may be present at this stage. Periodontal treatment and some enhancements to at-home oral healthcare routines can help many individuals effectively address periodontitis and prevent the condition from causing even more serious damage.
The most severe stage of gum disease, advanced periodontitis, is diagnosed when it is clear that bone and connective tissues have been nearly or fully destroyed. Advanced periodontitis can cause the teeth to feel loose in the mouth and lead to significant levels of pain. It can also produce bite irregularities and dramatically increase oral and general health risks. Extensive periodontal treatment is often necessary at this stage of the condition.
What Are the Available Gum Disease Treatment Options?
There are numerous treatment options for gum disease, and our practice utilizes some of the most advanced procedures available to address the condition. We are also committed to using the Caries Management by Risk Assessment (CAMBRA) approach to care, which helps us create customized treatment plans for each patient based on the bacterial origins of cavities.
The best treatment option for gum disease will depend on the particular stage of the condition that is diagnosed as well as other factors unique to each individual’s needs. Treatments available at our practice include:
Also known as “deep scaling and root planing,” a deep cleaning may be recommended for patients who have periodontal conditions that cannot be as effectively treated with a standard dental cleaning. During a deep cleaning, plaque and calculus that have settled deep within the gums are carefully removed, and the tooth roots are smoothed. This allows the gums to more easily attach themselves to the teeth.
Laser therapies are often utilized as the final step of a deep cleaning. With laser dentistry, we can provide a strong seal between the gums and teeth. This treatment can also minimize bleeding and discomfort, ultimately shortening the recovery period.
More advanced stages of gum disease may require the removal of infected gingival tissue. A gingivectomy can be performed to close gum pockets and reshape the tissue, which can result in enhanced gum health and improved aesthetics.
Osseous surgery is another option that can close deep pockets and provide a better seal between the gums and teeth to prevent additional bacteria from setting in. This treatment is usually only necessary in cases of particularly advanced periodontal disease.
If you are diagnosed with gum disease, a member of our dental team will talk with you about the most ideal treatment options and answer any questions you may have. For more information on periodontal care, or to schedule an appointment here at Thompson Center for Dentistry, please contact us today.