Gum disease is a concern for many people, and untreated symptoms can wreak havoc on their oral health and the esthetic appeal of their smile. Dr. Nancy Snyder in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, offers periodontal services to restore a healthy mouth using the latest treatments and the highest standards of care.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is an infection that affects the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. This tissue infection is caused by the sticky bacteria film that forms on the teeth, called plaque. Gum disease is a significant cause of tooth loss, and the warning signs are typically painless. Many people are unaware they have periodontal disease until they have a bi-annual dental exam and cleaning. If you suspect you have gum disease, see your dentist as soon as possible because the early stage (gingivitis) is often reversible.
Gingivitis causes gums to swell, become red and bleed easily but improving dental hygiene habits and regular professional cleanings can restore healthy gum tissue. Advanced gum disease (periodontitis) causes tissue loss and bone degradation that affects how the jaw and gums support teeth. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), chronic periodontitis impacts 47.2% of Americans over 30 in the United States. Ongoing periodontitis causes teeth to loosen and shift, and aggressive periodontitis may cause rapid tissue and bone loss.
Some research has linked periodontal disease with systemic diseases, but the nature of these connections is up for debate. Some studies indicate diabetes, stroke and other health conditions are associated with severe gum disease.
Periodontal Risk Factors
Some people are more likely to develop periodontal disease than others, but this often comes down to dental hygiene habits. Risk factors for gum disease include:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Family history of gum disease and poor oral health
- Chewing or smoking tobacco
- Misaligned teeth that harbor bacteria in difficult-to-clean areas
- Medications, such as cancer therapy drugs, steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, oral contraceptives or calcium channel blockers
Warning Signs of Gum Disease
Many people don’t realize they have gum disease, but there are several warning signs of gingivitis and increased symptoms as the disease progresses, including:
- Gums that bleed easily and when flossing
- Swollen or tender gums
- Red gum tissue
- Gum tissue that pulls away from the teeth
- Chronic bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
- Permanent teeth loosening or shifting teeth
- Alterations in the bite and the way the teeth fit together
- Changes in how partial dentures fit in the mouth
Patients can experience no warning signs of periodontal disease, which is why bi-annual dental checkups and periodontal exams are crucial to maintaining a healthy mouth.
Periodontal treatment depends on the severity of the disease. Improving daily dental hygiene habits at home can often reverse gingivitis or prevent gum disease from progressing or re-occurring. The goal of periodontal treatment is to eliminate the plaque biofilm from the surface of the teeth to re-establish a healthy environment for teeth and tissues. Periodontal treatment may be non-surgical or surgical depending on systemic factors, location in the mouth, severity of the disease and the individual patient.
Non-surgical therapies for periodontal disease may include:
- Educating the patient about gum disease and improving oral hygiene instructions
- Scaling and root planing
- Special care of areas where food debris and plaque tend to collect, such as orthodontic treatment for crooked or overcrowded teeth
Scaling & Root Planing
According to the ADA, non-surgical treatment with scaling and root planing is the preferred treatment for patients with periodontitis. The ADA also recommends a sub-antimicrobial dose of doxycycline with scaling and root planing for patients with moderate-to-severe cases. Doxycycline may be prescribed twice daily for up to nine months after non-surgical treatment. Some patients will need several treatments to clean their teeth and roots. Scaling and root planing and adjunctive treatments may take four weeks to show noticeable results with healthier gum tissue.
Surgical Periodontal Treatment
Some advanced cases of periodontitis require surgical treatment, which accesses the root surface of deep root planing and reduces the depth of gum tissue pockets for more successful at-home oral care. Surgical therapies may involve improving the anatomic conditions in the mouth that contribute to gum disease severity, such as tooth extraction of severely damaged teeth, dental implants to replace missing teeth and gum grafts.
A gum graft prevents further gum recession and bone loss and reduces tooth and gum sensitivity. The donor tissue is typically taken from the palate (roof of the mouth) or another area to cover exposed roots.
Periodontal pocket reduction is another surgical treatment involving folding the gum tissue to remove bacteria and suturing the tissues back in place. Regenerative surgery may be necessary for bone loss and involves folding back gingival tissue, removing bacteria and then using tissue-stimulating proteins or bone grafts to regenerate the periodontal tissues.
Schedule a Dental Exam at Fort Oglethorpe Dental
If you’re experiencing signs of periodontal disease, contact Dr. Nancy Snyder in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, today at (706) 861-5263 to schedule your dental exam and professional cleaning.