Preventing, Identifying, and Treating Gum Disease
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, indicates bacterial growth and infection in the gum tissue. In its mild form, known as gingivitis, it is easily reversible. However, if left untreated, it can progress quickly to periodontitis.
With periodontitis, the bacteria go deep below the gum line. This leads to the destruction of tissue and bone that anchor your teeth in place. As it progresses, gum recession and tooth loss can occur.
At Grand Lake Dental, Dr. Karl Jobst treats patients with gum disease every day. He understands the importance of prevention, treatment, and education, and you can trust him to help you get back to a healthy smile.
Mild Gum Disease
The mildest form of gum disease is called gingivitis. It affects the gum tissue that surrounds the base of your teeth, which is called the gingiva.
In the earliest stages of gingivitis, the symptoms can be so mild you may miss them. That is one reason routine visits with your dentist are so important. Each time you visit us, we will perform a thorough exam to look for early signs of gum disease and dental decay. The earlier you begin the process to reverse gingivitis, the easier it will be.
As gingivitis progresses, the gingiva becomes more irritated. This causes red, swollen gums. As more irritation occurs, the gums become tender and sensitive. Eventually, they begin to bleed easily, especially with brushing and flossing. Another common symptom is halitosis—better known as bad breath.
While gingivitis can be easily ignored or missed, it is necessary to take action to first halt and then reverse the process. If you don’t, it can progress to periodontitis.
So, how do you halt and reverse gingivitis? By taking care of what caused it in the first place.
The most common cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene. This is because each time we eat, food particles can get caught between our teeth. When these particles interact with the bacteria in your mouth, plaque forms on your teeth. This invisible, sticky film requires daily removal with flossing and brushing.
Plaque that remains on the teeth hardens into calculus—also called tartar. Calculus collects around the gum line and protects bacteria, allowing them to thrive. As more and more tartar forms, it irritates the gums, causing gingivitis (and putting you at a higher risk for dental decay).
No amount of brushing or flossing will remove tartar. Removal requires a professional teeth cleaning.
Therefore, to halt and reverse gingivitis requires improved oral hygiene. At a minimum, you will want to floss daily and brush twice a day, although you may want to consider brushing and flossing after each meal.
It is also a great idea to begin using an antiseptic mouthwash, as this helps to control the bacteria in your mouth.
Moreover, routine dental visits are imperative. In fact, depending on the extent of gingivitis, your dentist may want you to return sooner than six months.
When Gum Disease Progresses
If gingivitis continues, the bacteria and infection get below the gum line and begin to destroy gum tissue. As the bacteria spread and get deeper and more gum tissue is destroyed, the gums separate from the teeth. This separation causes pockets, or spaces, between the gums and teeth. Plaque, bacteria, and tartar move into the pockets, causing them to become deeper.
At this point, your gum disease has progressed to periodontitis. If not treated, the cycle continues as more and more bacteria, plaque, and tartar continue to go deeper below the gum line.
As periodontitis continues to progress, the bacteria destroy the tissue and bone that hold your teeth in place. This leads to gum recession and tooth loss.
In fact, gum disease is the number one cause of adult tooth loss.
In addition, the constant strain on your immune system due to periodontitis puts you at risk for many other health issues, such as diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
Symptoms of periodontitis can include:
- New spaces between teeth
- Puffy gums
- Purplish, dusky, or bright red gums
- Receding gums
- Hot and cold sensitivity
- Pus between teeth and gums
- Loose teeth
- A change in bite
- Painful chewing
What can a dentist do for periodontitis?
One of the most important things your dentist and hygienist can do is provide education to help you understand the importance of good oral hygiene and prevention of oral issues.
But once gum disease has progressed to periodontitis, the infection is too deep for even a routine professional cleaning to reach it.
At this point, you need deep cleaning to remove the infection and allow the gums to heal. This deep cleaning is called scaling and root planing. Deep scaling goes below the gum line to remove the plaque and tartar. Because this can be uncomfortable, Dr. Jobst will use local anesthesia. For patients who experience anxiety, dental sedation is also available.
Once scaling is completed, the rough spots on the tooth roots will be removed in a process called planing. This helps prevent bacterial growth.
After deep cleaning, the gums will be tender. Over-the-counter pain medication and a soft diet should take care of any discomfort.
Scaling and root planing takes care of the infection, but it is only the first step. With time and good oral hygiene, the gums should eventually reattach. You can expect the dentist to bring you back for periodontal maintenance checkups every three to four months until your gums are well healed.
If you have any symptoms of gum disease, or if it has been longer than six months since you have seen a dentist, it’s time to see Dr. Jobst.
Call (918) 787-5800 today to schedule an appointment.