If you or a family member has been diagnosed with gum disease, periodontal treatments should be a part of your life. Gum disease is not curable and is the number one cause of tooth loss. Any time you see an older person struggling with dentures, the odds are good that he or she lost those teeth to gum disease.
Does a gum disease diagnosis mean you are destined to lose your teeth eventually? Not necessarily, but only if you get your symptoms under control. Simply put, perio treatments save your teeth.
What Gum Disease Does to Your Mouth
Gum disease is the condition in which bacteria inhabit the gum tissue and wreak havoc on your teeth, soft tissues, and bones beneath the gum line. Untreated, the gums become so damaged that teeth are no longer supported and become loose or fall out.
Patients may experience symptoms such as bleeding or swollen gums, or they may notice nothing. A bad smell or feelings of looseness in the teeth may also be present. Eventually gum tissue is destroyed and the gum line recedes to reveal tooth roots, which appear darker than tooth enamel.
The only way to determine the presence of gum disease is by measuring the depth of periodontal pockets, so if you’ve already received a diagnosis this means bacteria have already been damaging your gums. The next thing you may experience is greater tissue damage, cavities below the gum line, and receding gums.
How Periodontal Treatments Help You Keep Your Teeth
Basic periodontal treatments are often referred to as “deep cleaning” because they remove bacteria and tartar below the gum line. Regularly cleaning out these pockets in the gum tissue can reduce the amount of bacteria and help delay the advance of tissue destruction.
Scaling and Root Planing – This periodontal treatment consists of deep cleaning and smoothing the surface of the tooth roots to remove the spaces where bacteria can hide and proliferate. Smoothing out rough or bumpy roots can help keep bacteria levels lower.
Gum Grafts – If a patient has lost gum tissue above the enamel, gum grafting can replace that tissue to protect tooth roots from damage and keep teeth stabilized (prevent loose teeth).
Gum Surgery – If gum tissue has been damaged by bacteria, it often needs to be removed. Replacing that tissue with a gum graft is often necessary.
There are also a number of rinses, antibiotics, and biofilms we may prescribe. These medications help keep bacteria at bay, to prevent the tissue damage that leads to loosened teeth.
How to Keep Your Teeth
If you have gum disease, your dentist will recommend a set schedule of periodontal treatments. These will help keep your bacteria levels as low as possible and prevent further damage to your teeth and gums.
Following your dentist’s recommendations cannot “cure” gum disease, but it can help you halt its progress and keep your teeth securely in your mouth.
Brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, and use any prescribed rinses or medications as directed. Even if flossing causes bleeding, keep doing it. It still removes bacteria and as your gums become stronger the bleeding will lessen or stop.
Living with Gum Disease
A gum disease diagnosis does not mean you will necessarily end up with dentures, but it does mean that you need to adhere to your treatments responsibly.
There will never come a time when you can just forget about your gum disease and hope things turn out okay. Keeping up with treatments is the only way to keep your symptoms under control and save your teeth.
Make your periodontal appointments, keep your appointments, practice good daily hygiene and you may be able to keep your teeth healthy and strong, despite gum disease!