Gum treatment becomes necessary when you have gum disease, otherwise known as periodontal disease.
The word periodontal means “around the tooth”. Periodontal disease attacks the gums and the bone that support the teeth. This is caused by plaque which is a sticky film of bacteria and their products, food debris and saliva. If plaque is not removed, it will become thicker as the bacteria grow and colonise the tooth surface, especially at the gum level. If left in place, by not brushing correctly or not at all, it turns into calculus (tartar). This calculus is porous like a hard sponge and harbours the bacteria and their toxins. This causes the gums to become infected and inflamed (gingivitis). The plaque and tartar will then start forming below the gum-line and will start destroying the gums and bone if it is not removed. Periodontal disease is typically characterized by red, swollen, and bleeding gums.
Periodontal disease causes pockets to form between the teeth and the gums. These pockets are measured with a special gum measuring probe during a routine dental examination. As these pockets under the gums become deeper with the progression of the disease they get filled with more aggressive bacteria, toxins, plaque and tartar causing an increased inflammation and damage to the surrounding tissues. When these irritants remain in the pocket space, they cause destruction to the gums, the ligaments and eventually, the bone that supports the teeth!
Four out of five people have periodontal disease and don’t even know it! Most people are not aware of it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages.
Not only is it the number one cause of tooth loss, but research suggests that there is a link between periodontal disease and other diseases such as, stroke, bacterial pneumonia, diabetes, heart attacks & cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and increased risk of complications during pregnancy. Smoking also significantly increases the risk of periodontal disease and also the progression thereof.
Good oral hygiene (brushing and flossing), a balanced diet, and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.
Signs and symptoms of periodontal disease:
- Bleeding gums – Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
- Loose teeth – This a late sign caused by bone loss from the socket that holds the tooth in place.
- New spaces between teeth – Caused by bone loss.
- Persistent bad breath – Caused by bad bacteria in the mouth.
- Pus around the teeth and gums – Sign that there is an infection present.
- Receding gums – Bacterial destruction & loss of gum around a tooth.
- Red and puffy gums – Shows inflammation: Gums should never be red or swollen.
- Tenderness or Discomfort – Plaque, calculus, and bacteria irritate the gums and teeth.
The type and severity of the periodontal disease will determine the type of intervention and treatment. We, as your dentist and hygienist, will evaluate during a routine dental examination for periodontal disease and recommend the appropriate treatment. This is done by doing a clinical/ visual examination of your gums. We will also meticulously measure and chart the pockets between the gums and the teeth. X-rays will reveal the amount of bone loss that has occurred.
Based on the information gathered during the clinical examination of your gums, we would recommend the appropriate gum/periodontal treatment. There are three broad categories of periodontal treatment:
- If the disease is caught in the early stages of gingivitis, and no damage has been done to the bone of the tooth socket, one or two regular professional dental cleanings by us or the dental hygienist will be recommended. You will also be given instructions on improving your daily oral hygiene habits and having regular dental cleanings.
- If the disease has progressed to more advanced stages, a special periodontal cleaning called scaling and root planing (deep cleaning) will be recommended. It is usually done one quadrant of the mouth at a time while the area is made numb with a routine dental injection with local anaesthetic. During this procedure, tartar, plaque, and toxins are removed from above and below the gum line (scaling) and rough spots on root surfaces are made smooth (root planing). This procedure helps the gum tissues to heal and pockets to shrink. In addition to instruction in correct brushing and flossing, medications (specific antibiotics), special medicated mouth rinses, and an electric tooth brush may be recommended to help control infection and increase the healing processes.
- If the pockets do not heal after scaling and root planing, periodontal surgery may be needed to reduce pocket depths, making teeth easier to clean. For this surgical treatment, we will recommend that you see a Periodontist (specialist of the gums and supporting bone).
- Localized gum recession which exposes the root surfaces (caused by periodontal disease, by over- brushing with a hard bristle brush, or due to a tooth that is not positioned properly) may also be corrected by periodontal surgery or gum grafting to prevent spreading or progression of the recession and to reduce the tooth’s sensitivity to cold.
Please give us a call to help you have healthy gums for the rest of your life.