Did you know that 50% of American adults suffer from periodontal (gum) disease? However, the good news is that we can take steps toward preventing gum disease and keeping our natural teeth for a lifetime.
What is periodontal/gum disease?
Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gums and underlying bone that supports the teeth. When plaque (a sticky bacterial film) is allowed to build up around the gums, the gums can become red and inflamed (gingivitis). If left untreated, deep pockets can begin to form between the teeth and gums. Over time, these pockets will collect bacteria and make cleansability difficult. In this way, gingivitis can progress and result in deterioration of the bone (periodontitis). Ultimately, this can lead to gum recession, loose teeth, tooth loss and infections.
What options are available to treat periodontal disease?
Periodontal treatment includes both surgical and non-surgical methods to regain the health of the supporting structures of the teeth (gums and bone). These include:
Scaling and Root Planing: A deep cleaning in the presence of local anesthesia, this is a common starting point to treat gum disease. Using a combination of ultrasonic (electronic) scaling and hand instruments, bacterial plaque and tartar (calculus) are removed from above and below the gum line. The teeth are evaluated for healing after four to six weeks since many shallow gum pockets can heal with deep cleanings. After this procedure, you may need professional cleanings every 3-4 months for maintenance, while also practicing consistent oral hygiene at home.
Gum Grafting: In some cases, it may be necessary to prevent further gum recession and protect the exposed tooth root. A healthy piece of tissue from one area of the mouth can be harvested and positioned to cover as much of the exposed root as possible. This procedure is highly predictable and can result in a healthy band of tissue around the tooth.
Periodontal Plastic Surgery: This refers to any reshaping procedure that results in a more pleasing appearance of the gum tissue. It can correct uneven gum lines, excess gum showing when smiling (gummy smile), and/or indentations in the gums and jawbone.
Periodontal Laser Treatment: Lasers provide a modern and minimally invasive method to treat gum disease. They work by removing inflamed and diseased gum tissue surrounding the roots of the teeth. Other advantages include less discomfort and gum shrinkage compared with traditional surgical flap procedures.
Crown Lengthening Surgery: This is a routine procedure that can improve cosmetics and/or solve restorative dental problems. A small amount of gum and bone will be removed to expose more tooth structure. This can make the teeth appear longer and result in a less gummy and more attractive smile. Alternatively, if a tooth is lacking enough structure above the gum, it can allow for improved retention of a filling or dental crown.
How can I prevent periodontal/gum disease?
Meticulous oral hygiene practices are very important in preventing gum disease. We recommend:
1) Brushing twice daily with a soft-bristle manual or electric toothbrush for at least two minutes. Use a circular motion with the brush angled 45 degrees to your gums.
2) Floss daily beneath your gums while wrapping the floss around each tooth in a C-shape. Remember to floss beneath the gums behind the last teeth as well.
3) Brushing your tongue or using a tongue scraper can help remove bacteria that are responsible for cavities, bad breath (halitosis), and gum disease.