When it comes to Periodontal or gum disease, lack of symptoms may not necessarily be good news. Periodontitis, or gum disease, often is “silent.”
There may be warning signs, like bleeding gums or loose teeth; however, you may not have symptoms until the infection reaches an advanced stage. But there is good news: seeking regular professional periodontal treatment, combined with good oral care at home, can reverse gum disease and help you keep your teeth forever.
What is gum disease?
Periodontal Disease is a set of inflammatory diseases that affect the tissues, gum and bone that surround and support your teeth. It involves progressive loss of bone around the teeth that, left untreated, can lead to loosening and subsequent loss of teeth.
Periodontal Disease is caused by oral bacteria that adhere to and grow on tooth surfaces. It’s diagnosed by inspecting the soft gum tissues around your teeth with a probe and evaluating x-rays to determine the amount of bone loss you may have around your teeth.
How does it start?
Gum disease begins when bacteria in plaque (the sticky film that forms on teeth) cause your gums to become inflamed. In its mildest form, Gingivitis, your gums will be red, swollen and bleed easily. If not treated, bacteria can spread below your gum line and destroy the gums and bones supporting your teeth. When that happens, your gums may separate from your teeth, allowing advanced infection.
If you’re 45 or older, you likely are among the 80% of Americans affected by gum disease. There also are common associated risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, heart disease or a family history of tooth loss.
What causes gum disease?
Plaque, which also can harden into a rough, porous substance known as tartar, is the primary cause of most gum disease. Bacteria in plaque produce enzymes and toxins that injure gums, which then swell, turn red, and bleed easily. If allowed to progress, gums may separate from the teeth, causing pockets (spaces) to form.
This separation can occur both above and below the gum line and, as periodontal diseases progress, the supporting gum tissue and bone that holds teeth in place deteriorate, which may result in loose teeth and, ultimately, tooth loss. You may not feel any pain until the damage caused by periodontal disease is very advanced.
What is the treatment for gum disease?
Treating gum disease is all about controlling the bacterial infection. Treatment can vary, depending on the extent of the gum disease. Sometimes deep-cleaning, including scaling and root planing, is all that’s needed. Other times medications may be prescribed to control bacteria and reduce the size of periodontal pockets.
If inflammation and deep pockets persist, Dr. Genet may recommend gum surgery to remove tartar deposits and reduce the deep gum pockets, making it easier to keep gums infection-free. Dr. Genet also may suggest procedures to help regenerate bone or gum tissue lost to Periodontal Disease. Bone grafting, in which natural or synthetic bone is placed in the area of bone loss, can help promote bone growth.
Treatment results depend on many things, including how far the disease has progressed, how well you keep up with oral care at home, and the number of risk factors. Changing certain behaviors, such as quitting smoking, can certainly improve the outcome.
Most importantly, “brush up” on your dental care basics: brush your teeth (and tongue) properly twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, replace your toothbrush every three months, floss daily and schedule regular periodontal maintenance.