So your dentist has informed you that you have gum disease. While a gum disease diagnosis may sound intimidating, the condition is treatable. With help from the hygienists and dentists at Metropolitan Dental Care, you’ll learn how to reverse the effects of gum disease and keep your gums healthy long-term.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection of the gum tissue. It is commonly caused by poor oral hygiene. Lack of regular and effective brushing and flossing allow bacterial plaque to accumulate.
Over time, plaque turns into tartar that must be removed with special tools by a dental professional. Once the plaque and tartar begin to build up under the gums, infection results. Any infection needs to be treated quickly to prevent more serious issues. Without treatment, gum disease escalates to destroy gums, connective tissues, and surrounding bone. Ultimately, tooth loss and bone deterioration, even tissue necrosis (death), can occur.
What are symptoms of gum disease?
Some people have no symptoms. For others, early symptoms of gum disease include swollen and red gums. Gums may also bleed during and after brushing. Teeth can become sensitive when gums are infected.
Gum disease causes bad breath and an unpleasant taste in the mouth. You may also begin to notice changes in your teeth. Teeth can appear longer, which is actually due to gum recession.
Tooth loss can occur if gum disease progresses. But the effects reach beyond the mouth. Gum disease is linked to diabetes and heart disease, among other systemic health issues.
Are there ways to reverse the effects of gum disease?
Depending on the severity of the infection, symptoms of gum disease can be reversed or eliminated. During your exam, the dental hygienist will evaluate your gums and determine the best treatment plan.
Some common ways to reverse gum disease include:
Good oral hygiene
Practicing good oral hygiene is key to preventing gum disease and reducing the risk of flare-ups (for those who’ve had the condition). It’s recommended that you brush your teeth at least two times per day and floss daily to prevent tooth decay, as well as periodontal problems. Brushing and flossing are especially important after meals since food particles can be trapped between the teeth.
Dentists also recommend that you schedule routine cleanings at least two times per year. Depending on the condition of your oral health you may need to make more frequent appointments. Your dentist or hygienist will provide a recommended schedule after your checkup and cleaning.
Visiting your dentist regularly will provide opportunities for gum disease to be diagnosed sooner rather than later. It is much easier to treat gum disease in the early stages as opposed to treating it after it has had time to do far more damage.
Dental scaling and root planing
This common treatment is performed when plaque and tartar buildup is excessive. Dental scaling and root planing is a two-part process.
Unlike what happens in a routine dental cleaning, scaling involves removing plaque and tartar above and below the gum line. Plaque and tartar that accumulate below the gum line can wreak havoc on your gums.
You will be given a local anesthetic prior to the treatment. It will numb the area being treated so that you remain comfortable during scaling.
Once the plaque and tartar have been removed, the hygienist will then focus on the roots of your teeth. Root planing smooths the surface of the root to get rid of areas where plaque and tartar lodge. Smooth teeth roots leave no ridges for plaque to settle in and reproduce.
You may need multiple treatments, depending on the health of your gums. You may also need to come in for frequent examinations to make sure your gums are healing properly. The hygienist can discuss this in greater detail during your appointment.
Bone or tissue graft
Bone or tissue grafts are only necessary in severe cases of gum disease when non-surgical options are deemed inadequate. Usually, a graft is recommended when bone or gum tissue is damaged beyond repair.
All infected and necrotic (dead) tissue is removed to create a good foundation for a graft to attach.
Your dentist or periodontist will replace the bone or gum tissue by transferring tissue from another area of the body or acquiring donor tissue.
Typically, tissue from the roof of the mouth is used for gum grafting. It’s secured to the existing gum tissue and, over the course of a few months, the graft fully integrates with the surrounding tissue.
After a bone graft has been placed, it integrates with the healthy surrounding tissue.
Healthy gum and bone tissue will reattach to teeth, forming a solid bond that’s infection-free. It’s important that you adopt a strict oral hygiene routine at home to keep the new tissue strong and healthy.
Grafting is an effective treatment option for reversing the more serious effects of gum disease. Your dentist or periodontist will tell you if you’re a good candidate for this treatment.
Since gum disease is an infection of the gums, it is necessary to treat the infected area to allow the gums to heal. Oftentimes, dentists recommend antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Antibiotics can be prescribed in the form of mouthwashes, gels, or toothpaste.
It’s important to finish the entire course of antibiotics to ensure no infection remains. Your dentist will schedule an examination to check the status of your teeth and gums once you’ve completed the treatment.
If any sign of infection remains, you may need an additional course of antibiotics or possibly a stronger medication.
Flap surgery allows the dentist direct access to the root of the tooth. Prior to the surgery, a local anesthetic will be given to keep you comfortable.
Your dentist or periodontist will make an incision into the gums above the tooth. This incision allows any inflamed tissue to be removed. Depending on the findings, tooth scaling and root planing may also be performed during this procedure. The flap is then closed and securely held in place with stitches.
Eliminating the use of tobacco products
Smoking and use of other tobacco products can have detrimental effects on your teeth and gums. The ingredients in these products cause gum tissue and bone loss, along with a large array of other potential health issues.
Quitting smoking or chewing tobacco will help gums heal and reduce the risk of ongoing problems or complications.
If you have trouble quitting smoking then please speak to your dentist to discuss options you may not have considered.
If I think I’m experiencing gum disease what should I do?
Gum disease is chronic, but its effects are reversible. It’s important that you see your dentist when you first exhibit symptoms. Early detection is key to successfully treating gum disease.
Less invasive treatments are more likely to be used when gum disease is caught early. Early treatment reduces the likeliness of tooth loss and related systemic health issues.
How can I learn more?
Don’t wait until your routine cleaning if you have symptoms of gum disease. To learn more about treatment, give our office a call at (303) 534-2626 to schedule an appointment.
A dental hygienist will examine your teeth and gums and provide a treatment plan. You can review the pros and cons of the plan, along with any risks and expected recovery time, with the hygienist during your visit.