Reclaim Healthy Gums with Periodontal Therapy
Before any cosmetic dentistry or restorative dentistry treatments can be carried out for your smile makeover, your gums must be healthy enough to accommodate the alterations. Periodontal disease, most commonly referred to as gum disease, is a serious gum infection that can eventually impact your overall health and wellness. Gum disease, in fact, may be the very reason that you are in need of restorative dentistry treatments like dental implants or full-mouth reconstruction.
Understanding Gum Disease
Gum disease is not a problem that suddenly afflicts your teeth and mouth. Periodontal disease begins gradually, first appearing as gingivitis and exhibiting symptoms such as irritation, swelling, and redness. If not recognized early, the disease will grow until it develops into full-blown periodontal disease which could result in the loss of teeth, holes in your smile, and, ultimately, a compromised jawbone. Gum disease is actually the number one cause of tooth loss in adults.
Periodontal disease is an overgrowth of bacteria in your mouth, and it can easily wreak havoc on your oral health. Gum infections like periodontitis will destroy the bone that supports your teeth and damage the soft tissue around your teeth. This can lead to a host of oral health complications. The tartar build-up on your teeth, when left too long without professional removal, can develop into infections below the gum line, causing your teeth and gums to separate from each other and creating pockets that get filled with bacteria and eventually become infected. As the condition worsens and the pockets deepen, bone and gum tissue are both destroyed, which is what leads to the teeth becoming loose in their sockets and ultimately falling out.
Every person is at risk for developing gum disease, and neglecting to remove the daily accumulation of bacteria, food, and plaque on your teeth is courting disaster. While plaque is the leading cause of gum disease, there are other factors that make some people more susceptible to gum disease than others:
- Bad habits: Not keeping up with dental hygiene is the biggest bad habit, but grinding your teeth and smoking are also vices that can damage your mouth by contributing to gum disease or making it difficult for treated gums to heal.
- DNA: Genetics simply predispose some people to developing gum disease. If your parents or grandparents have gum disease, your risks of developing the disease are higher.
- Medication: Dry mouth is a common side effect of many medications. When your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva to keep your teeth and gums moist and washed off, the territory is ripe for bacteria to breed.
- Hormones: Women are particularly susceptible to gum disease because of hormonal fluctuations they experience during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. There is even a condition known as pregnancy gingivitis which makes a mother-to-be’s more likely to develop inflammation of the gums.
Gum Disease Symptoms
Gum disease is relatively painless at first, which is why it’s so important to see your dentist regularly. His or her trained eye can recognize the beginning stages of gingivitis where you may not. There are, however, other oral health symptoms that may indicate the growing presence of gum disease. And, even if they do not signify gum disease, these issues are serious enough that you should consult your dentist about them regardless to find out their cause:
- Red gums
- Swollen gums
- Bleeding gums
- Tender gums
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
- Spaces between teeth
- Bad breath
Your dentist will take into consideration various elements of your oral health – color of gums, whether bleeding occurs, firmness of gums, pockets between teeth and gums, tartar build-up, tooth sensitivity, movement of teeth – during your dental exam to determine if you have gum disease, what stage it is in, and what kind of treatment is necessary to stop the problem from growing. X-rays are also used to indicate whether or not there is a build-up of bacteria beneath the gum line.
Treating Periodontal Disease
Gum disease is a serious illness, and it must be addressed quickly and aggressively to prevent you from experiencing any further tooth loss or compromising the whole of your oral health. Soft tissue management like scaling and root planing will be used to clean out any decay that has set in and caused gingivitis or the far more serious periodontitis.
The tartar that builds up in your mouth over time can only be removed by a dentist’s tools. This process is known as scaling and a dentist will use a manual tool known as a scaler or ultrasound vibrations to remove tartar from the part of your teeth that lies below the gum line.
Because plaque and tartar appreciate a rough surface to latch onto, the teeth that undergo scaling must then undergo root planing, a procedure that smooths away irregular surfaces so as to make it far more difficult for plaque to adhere.
These procedures also promote the reattachment of healthy gums to the teeth and, most importantly, stop the progress of periodontal disease in its tracks. But undergoing scaling and root planing are not the final solution to periodontitis. It is essential to keep up with at-home preventive care and professional dental cleanings and exams. Your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings in order to monitor the health and healing of your gums after periodontal therapy.
Preventing Gum Disease
Maintaining preventive care and always keeping your dental exams and cleanings can help ward against periodontal disease. Not only will your diligence in cleaning your teeth keep them and your mouth healthy, your dentist will have the opportunity twice a year to take stock of your oral health and correct any signs of gingivitis before they get out of hand.
Gum disease will never go away on its own and, without treatment, it will only get progressively worse. Periodontitis is painful, ugly, and will compromise not only your oral health but your overall wellness. Gum disease is an inflammatory condition, as are cardiovascular disease and stroke, and the growth of bacteria in your mouth will be swallowed repeatedly into your digestive system, causing systemic problems that will need to be treated as well.
Contact Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez and Dr. Sharon Schmeiser in Miami, Florida, to schedule your next dental exam and cleaning, which will include a thorough review of your mouth for any signs of gum disease.