Gum Disease / Gingivitis / Periodontal Disease
If you have been told you have periodontal (gum) disease, you’re not alone. Many adults in the U.S. currently have some form of the disease. Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the worst cases, teeth are lost.
Whether your gum disease is stopped, slowed, or gets worse depends a great deal on how well you care for your teeth and gums every day, from this point forward.
What causes gum disease?
Our mouths are full of bacteria. These bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colorless “plaque” on teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form “tartar” that brushing doesn’t clean. Only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar.
The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more harmful they become. The bacteria cause inflammation of the gums that is called “gingivitis.” In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist. This form of gum disease does not include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place.
When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to “periodontitis” (which means “inflammation around the tooth”). In periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces (called “pockets”) that become infected. The body’s immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Bacterial toxins and the body’s natural response to infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. The teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.
Treatment methods depend upon the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed. The emphasis in Dr. Bosacker’s practice is conservative periodontal therapy. Many times, the early stages of periodontal disease are best treated with non-surgical periodontal therapy. This usually consists of placing a fine ultrasonic tip or hand scaler/curette in between the tooth and gum tissue to remove bacterial plaque and calculus (tartar) below the gum line. The tooth roots may also be planed to smooth the root surfaces. This procedure is commonly known as Scaling and Root Planing or Periodontal Debridement. This initial periodontal therapy along with good personal oral hygiene allows the gum tissue to heal and reattach to the tooth. Four to six weeks later, periodontal pockets are eliminated due to gum shrinkage (if the disease is in its earliest stage). Then the patient can personally maintain these areas with routine brushing and flossing.
Even in most severe cases of periodontal disease, non-surgical periodontal therapy most often precedes surgical therapy. This is done so that the active periodontal infection is reduced and the overall tissue quality is improved prior to surgery. This procedure may also limit the areas requiring surgery.