If you have been told you have gum/periodontal disease, you are not alone. It is estimated that 75% of North American Adults currently have some form of the disease. It is very common, but the good news is that it’s treatable upon diagnosis.
Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation to serious diseases that result in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the worst cases, teeth become mobile and are eventually lost. Not only is gum disease a threat to your oral health, but also it has been linked to general health problems and is associated with heart attacks, strokes, diabetic complications and low birth weight in babies.
The progression of gum disease is dependent not only on your dental treatment but also on how well you care for your teeth and gums on a daily basis from this point forward.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
Our mouths are full of bacteria which when combined with our saliva, form a sticky colorless bacterial plaque on our teeth. If this is not removed the plaque can harden to form calculus (tartar) that brushing does not remove. Only a professional cleaning by a dental hygienist can remove calculus.
If bacterial plaque and tartar are not removed from teeth they become harmful. The bacteria will cause inflammation of the gums which become red, swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can usually be reversed with daily brushing, flossing and regular cleanings by your dental hygienist.
If gingivitis is neglected and not treated, it can advance to ‘periodontitis’. The gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets which can become infected and difficult to clean. As the disease progresses the pockets will deepen, bacterial toxins will accumulate under the gum line and start to break down the connective tissue and bone that hold the teeth in place. This results in pus oozing from the pockets. If not treated, the teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.
- Hormonal changes such as those occurring during pregnancy, puberty, menopause, and monthly menstruation – make gums more sensitive, which makes it easier for gum disease to develop.
- Illnesses may affect the condition of your gums. This includes diseases such as cancer, diabetes or HIV that interfere with the immune system, and healing patients with these diseases are at higher risk of developing infections, including periodontal disease.
- Medications such as antidepressants, heart medications and oral contraceptives can affect oral contraceptives can affect oral health because some lessen the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on teeth and gums.
- Bad Habits such as smoking make it harder for gum tissue to repair itself.
- Poor oral hygiene habits such as not brushing and flossing on a daily basis make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
- Family history of dental disease can be a contributing factor for the development of gingivitis.
There are also other factors which increase your risk of developing periodontal disease such as
- Bridges that no longer fit properly
- Crooked teeth
- Fillings that have become defective
What are the signs?
- Bad breath that won’t go away
- Red, swollen and bleeding gums
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Painful chewing and tender gums
- Loose teeth
- Cold sensitive teeth
The only way to confirm a diagnosis of periodontal disease is to have your mouth thoroughly examined by your dentist and/or hygienist.
- Medical and dental history will be taken to identify any underlying conditions or risk factors
- Using a dental ‘ruler’ called a probe is used to measure any pocket formations. In a healthy mouth these pockets usually range between 1 and 3 millimeters.
- Periodontal charting will be completed to determine bone loss around molars, inflammation bleeding, recession of the gums and mobility.
- Oral X-rays may be taken to determine if there is any bone loss.
Once a diagnosis has been made your hygienist will create an individualized plan designed for you to control and stabilize the infection. Our Soft Tissue Management (STM) program will help eliminate the infection, make recommendations to help you effectively clean your teeth daily, and guide you through your efforts to achieve and maintain oral health.
We always start with a conservative, non-surgical periodontal therapy program, but you should be aware that referral to a periodontist may be necessary to evaluate the need fir periodontal surgery.
By undergoing the STM program our hope is you will avoid or limit the need for periodontal surgery.