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Periodontal disease, which is also called gum disease or periodontitis, is often painless with no obvious symptoms. Many people are shocked when they learn that the first stage of gum disease is gingivitis. If it’s not treated, it can advance to periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease that is the leading cause of tooth loss in American adults and has been linked to diabetes and heart disease.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
There are millions of bacteria in our mouths. Some kinds are good; they break down the food that we eat. Other kinds form plaque, which can erode the enamel of your teeth, leading to decay (cavities), and damaging the soft tissue and bone that hold the teeth in place.
Daily brushing and flossing can prevent the acidic bacteria from accumulating on the teeth (plaque) and below the gumline. Poor oral hygiene is the leading cause of periodontal disease. Other factors that lead to gum infection include heredity, poor nutrition, stress, smoking, hormone changes, certain medications, and some diseases such as diabetes and HIV. Age can also be an important factor. Almost half of Americans over age 30 have some form of gum disease, and more than 70% of Americans over the age of 65 have periodontitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What Are Common Symptoms of Periodontal Disease?
The first stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis. It often has no obvious symptoms, or the infection may cause the gums to become red and swollen or they may even bleed. If left untreated, the disease becomes worse. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums and lead the erosion of the tissues and bone that support the teeth. The teeth may become loose and eventually fall out or need to be extracted.
As periodontal disease advances, it may cause symptoms such as:
- Red or swollen gums
- Bleeding gums
- Sensitivity to temperature
- Painful to chew
- Bad breath
- Gum recession
- Loose teeth
- A change in how the teeth fit together
How Do You Treat Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is a chronic disease, like diabetes. With proper management, it can be controlled, but it cannot be cured. Only the first stage (gingivitis) can be reversed. Once the disease advances, it requires regular monitoring and treatment.
Some types of treatment can be performed at a general dentist’s office. Other cases will be referred to a periodontal office like ours. Our periodontist can use special tools to remove the plaque and bacteria from under the gum line through a process called scaling and root planing. The process is comfortable; we use a local anesthetic to numb the area and have nitrous oxide (laughing gas) available to help our patients relax. We can even arrange for an anesthesiologist should the patient prefer to sleep through the entire procedure.
If periodontal disease leads to severe gum recession, we may recommend additional procedures to replace the gum tissue that was lost.
Would you prefer to be asleep during your dental procedure? We can arrange to have an anesthesiologist come to the office to administer I.V. sedation or general anesthesia. In many cases, you can have your treatment completed in one visit while in a completely safe and comfortable environment. Some patients prefer to be under general anesthesia if they desire extractions and dental implants in one day.
Most of our patients do not require sleep dentistry. We can also provide a local anesthetic such as novacaine and nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to ensure your comfort during your visit. You remain awake and conscious during the procedure, and will feel relaxed and comfortable.
What Other Diseases Are Associated with Periodontal Disease?
Research has linked periodontal disease (gum disease) with other types of disease. The bacteria and toxins that cause periodontal disease can travel to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. Clinical studies have linked periodontal disease to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s, some types of cancer, and pre-term births.
What Is Periodontal Maintenance?
Since periodontal disease is a chronic disease, like diabetes, it requires some effort to keep it in check. People with gum disease need periodontal maintenance visits. The periodontist, general dentist, or hygienist can perform the necessary treatment three or four times a year to remove any new plaque from beneath the gum line and ensure the periodontal disease is under control.
It’s important to maintain an excellent oral hygiene routine at home as well. People should brush their teeth two times a day, for two minutes each time. Daily flossing and other techniques we will show you will help remove plaque and prevent the disease from advancing.
Oral Pathology and Oral Cancer Diagnosis
Oral cancer is on the rise. Our periodontists can take biopsies of suspicious lesions and areas and diagnose the cause. Early detection can save lives.
Soft Tissue Grafting / Gum Grafting
Soft tissue grafting, which is also called gum grafting, is used when the gums have receded and the tooth root is exposed. This can make your teeth look long, and can also make you look older than you are. The periodontist performs a soft tissue graft to cover the exposed tooth root, reduce further gum recession, and reduce the opportunity for bone loss and decay.
Bone grafting, which is also called ridge augmentation, rebuilds the alveolar ridge of the jaw, which is the bone that surrounds the roots of teeth. You need that ridge to be a certain density to support dental implants or a denture. Bone grafting is most frequently required when a tooth has been extracted; it keeps the jawbone from shrinking and your gum line from changing shape.
Crown Lengthening / Gummy Smile Surgery
Do you feel like your teeth look short? The cause may be a gummy smile. That’s when the gums cover up too much of one or more teeth. The result can be an uneven gumline, or an unflattering smile. An excessive amount of gum tissue around a tooth can also make it difficult to correctly fit a crown over a tooth.
Crown lengthening is the periodontal procedure used to expose more of the tooth. Then the periodontist will sculpt the gum line to create an even, attractive smile.
Call Today for a Periodontal Consultation
Call us at (631) 247-0976 today to schedule your appointment or request an appointment online. It’s the first step to restoring your oral health and preserving your teeth, gums, and jawbone so you can eat and laugh with ease for years to come. You’ll leave your appointment understanding how periodontal disease is impacting your oral health, the next steps for treatment, and what you can do at home to help manage this chronic disease.