Gum disease can be divided into two main categories, the early stage being gingivitis where gums become red and swollen. Periodontal disease is the more serious form or the next stage. There the gums pull away from the tooth which can cause the teeth to loosen or fall out. It is most prevalent among adults.
What is Periodontal disease?
Our mouths are full of bacteria which is why we need to practice good oral hygiene habits. When left unchecked the bacteria together with mucus and other particles form plaque which coat our teeth and gums. Brushing your teeth twice a day helps remove this sticky colourless substance from your teeth. If you do not remove plaque it hardens into tartar which is difficult to remove even when you brush and floss your teeth. You will need to have professional cleaning done to remove this tough substance.
If not cleaned and removed and the plaque manages to extend below the gum line, it causes gingivitis. At this stage of the disease the gums separate from the teeth. This is because it injures the soft gum tissue, fibres and bone that support the teeth. If gingivitis is allowed to continue without being treated it aggravates the gum inflammation causing pockets to develop between your gum and teeth. Overtime they continue to fill with bacteria, plaque and tartar.
Is there treatment for Periodontal disease?
There is no real cure for periodontal disease but there are some treatment options that can help reduce its progress and the damage it causes to your teeth, gums and most importantly, bone. The main goal will be to a deep cleaning of the pockets of bacteria, tartar and plaque around the teeth. You will further be advised to follow a thorough daily oral care routine to control it. You will have to manage your overall health condition as well as stopping habits such as using tobacco.
Unfortunately, if the disease goes beyond help removing all your teeth and replacing them with a full set of implant-support teeth is an option that will have to be considered.
Your periodontists will diagnose and assess your case based on a number of factors.
- Your medical history, the medications you take and if you smoke etc
- Examine your mouth for plaque and tartar build up
- Check if your gums bleed
- Measure the depth of the pocket between your gums and teeth. Pockets deeper than 4mm may be an indication of periodontal disease. Anything deeper and it becomes difficult to clean at all.
- Will take a dental x-ray to check for bone loss
Non-surgical treatments for when periodontal disease is at the early stages:
Scaling – This removes plaque, tartar and bacterial from the tooth surface and beneath the gums.
Root planing – The treatment smoothens the root surfaces which discourages further tartar and bacteria build up. It also removes bacterial by-products that lead to inflammation and delay healing.
Antibiotics – The bacterial infections are controlled using topical or oral antibiotics. This can include antibiotic mouth rinses or gels which are inserted between the teeth and gums after professional cleaning. Antibiotics are generally necessary to completely eliminate bacteria.
Surgical treatments will be necessary when the disease is at the advance stages:
Soft tissue grafts – Your gumline recedes when you lose gum tissue. This surgery will help reinforce some of the damaged soft tissue. A small amount of tissue is removed from the roof of your mouth and attached to the affected gum area.
Flap surgery – Tiny incisions are made in your gum so that your periodontist can lift back a section of gum tissue. This exposes the roots for more effective scaling and root planing. Sometimes the bone is recontoured before the tissue is sutured back into place.
Bone grafting – This usually comprises of small fragments of your own bone and if not either donated or synthetic bones are used. It helps prevent tooth loss by helping to hold the teeth in place and acts as a platform for your natural bone to regrow.
Tissue stimulating proteins – A special gel is applied to the diseased tooth root. It contains similar proteins found in developing tooth enamel and stimulates healthy tissue and bone growth.
What are the symptoms of Periodontal disease?
There are quite a few warning signs that can indicate periodontal disease.
- Bad breath and a persistent bad taste
- Swollen or red gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Pain when chewing food
- Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
- Sensitive and/or loose teeth
- Change in the way your teeth fit when you bite
- Change in the fit of dentures
How is the condition detected?
If you are experiencing any of the above or any feelings of discomfort at all it is important that you consult your dentist immediately. Your dentist will do the necessary checks to determine the problem and take prompt action. It is important that you schedule regular dental check ups at least twice a year so that any oral issues such as periodontal disease can be diagnosed early and treated quickly by dental professionals.
What happens if Periodontal disease is left untreated or neglected?
If left untreated periodontal disease continues to develop and goes beyond the help of any treatment. There are three basic stages to the disease.
Moderate periodontal disease – This is the point at which the pockets deepen and collect more bacteria allowing it to aggressively attack bones and bloodstream. At that this stage it can still be controlled with thorough professional cleaning.
Chronic periodontal disease – By this time it begins to destroy the bone and unfortunately cannot be completely cured because it affects the supportive fibres and gum tissues. The progress of the disease can be curtailed through scaling and root planing and antimicrobial treatments.
Aggressive periodontal disease – By this stage the bones have already suffered significant deterioration. You will need periodontal surgery or laser treatment to experience relief. If not treated the pockets of bacteria can lead to other overall health issues and a compromised immune system.
Who is at risk of Periodontal disease?
Some people have higher risk factors towards developing periodontal disease:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Habit of using tobacco
- Crooked teeth
- Loose or worn out fillings
- Bridges that no longer fit properly
- Taking medicines that cause dry mouth
- Medical conditions that cause immuno-deficiencies
- Female hormonal changes, such as with pregnancy or the use of oral contraceptives
Looking after your oral health is beyond important as it impacts your overall health as well. Practicing good oral hygiene habits and regular dental visits will help reduce the risk of developing periodontal disease. Once you develop the disease it is not easy to treat and there is no cure, making this a real situation where prevention is better than cure. Your oral health and smile are assets worth protecting and it is not difficult to do. With a little care and attention you can keep your teeth and gums healthy. Schedule a visit with a dentist today and receive proper guidance so that with minimum effort you can enjoy perfect oral health.