Periodontal (Gum) Disease and Periodontics
At Scripps Center for Dental Care, helping you maintain healthy gums is an essential part of our oral care philosophy. The condition of your mouth is linked with the health of your whole body, and an oral concern can have far-reaching effects. Our comprehensive multi-specialty dental team includes an extensively trained periodontist experienced in the latest techniques for gum treatment. When you arrive for your dental visit, we will examine your mouth for any signs of disease or damage. In the event an issue is detected, we can offer advanced solutions designed to restore the health of your teeth and gums as quickly, comfortably, and safely as possible. These treatments are routinely performed under local anesthetic or mild sedation. Our goal is to prevent problems from developing and also to correct problems that have already developed while limiting further damage, which can help patients keep their teeth for many years.
- What Is Periodontal Disease?
- Gum Disease Signs and Symptoms
- Gum Disease Causes
- Periodontal Disease Stages
- Periodontal Disease Screening
- Gum Disease Treatments
Oral health is whole health, and our experienced dental professionals are here to help care for your well-being. Contact us today for more information about gum treatment, or to schedule a consultation.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis and gum disease, is a bacterial infection of your gums that can cause a range of far-reaching issues. Gum disease leads to structural damage in your mouth, and it may also result in health problems within other areas of your body, including heart disease, stroke, and respiratory illnesses. Preventing gum disease with regular brushing and flossing is the best approach. Once an infection occurs, it’s essential to receive treatment from a qualified periodontist to protect your health and your smile.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Gum Disease?
Signs of gum disease may be visible to you before you arrive for your regular checkup. If your gums are red, irritated, swollen, or sensitive, or if they bleed after brushing or flossing, these may be symptoms of gum disease. Additionally, if one or more teeth feel loose or your gums appear to be separating from the teeth, there may be a serious concern. If you notice one or more of these indications, we recommend contacting us right away so that we can determine the source of the issue and develop an effective treatment plan.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease primarily develops due to poor oral hygiene from neglected brushing and flossing. As bacteria naturally accumulates in the soft tissues of the mouth, it forms a sticky film on the surface of the teeth that daily brushing helps eliminate. However, when this plaque continues to grow, it can harden and transform into tartar, which can no longer be removed by brushing the teeth. Tartar can only be treated through a professional cleaning from a dental hygienist.
As bacteria continues to spread, the gums will start to feel sore or swollen. Eventually a pocket may form between the teeth and gums, loosening the teeth and leaving the oral soft tissues vulnerable to infection. There are a number of factors that can increase the risk of periodontal disease, including smoking, diabetes, genetic predisposition, hormonal changes (often caused by pregnancy), and certain medications that may decrease saliva production. Smoking is the most universal component that can increase the risk of gum disease, with smokers typically developing periodontal concerns at twice the rate of non-smoking patients.
What are the Different Stages of Periodontal Disease?
Gum disease usually progresses in three stages. It is usually the case that the earlier bacteria buildup is addressed, the higher the likelihood of successful treatment using minimally invasive techniques. The different forms of periodontal disease include:
- Gingivitis: As the earliest phase of gum disease, gingivitis typically causes mild redness and swelling of the gums while the teeth remain firmly in position, as bacteria has not yet penetrated the bone or connective tissue. This is the form of gum disease experienced most commonly by patients. It is also not unusual for early gingivitis to present no visible symptoms, highlighting the importance of regular dental cleanings from a professional who can spot the first signs of gum disease.
- Periodontitis: When left to accumulate, disease-causing bacteria will begin to penetrate the bone and supportive tissue keeping the teeth in place. This can cause separation of the gum tissue from the gumline, creating a pocket where bacteria, plaque, and tarter can continue to gather.
- Advanced periodontitis: Eventually, untreated periodontitis can deepen the pocket between the gums and teeth, destabilizing the tooth and causing recession of your natural jawbone. This often leads to tooth loss and the development of other complications as the infection continues to spread. In the advanced stages of gum disease, minimally invasive treatments are typically ineffective and more advanced techniques are necessary to cleanse the soft tissues of the mouth.
Periodontal Disease Screening
During your regular checkup, we will evaluate the health of your gums by measuring the space between your teeth and gum tissue. This space is called the periodontal pocket and is a naturally occurring space. In most cases, our goal is to have all periodontal measurements of all teeth 3mm or less producing an oral environment which is cleansable and maintainable. If the area is deeper than desired, this is commonly called pocketing. As the exam is being performed, you may hear your dentist or hygienist calling out numbers. One, two, and three millimeters signify good condition; however, four, five and greater indicate a concern. Gum pocketing can occur as a result of gum or periodontal disease, loose teeth, teeth grinding (bruxism), or another problem. In addition to pocketing, our experienced periodontist will also look for any signs of abnormalities such as infection, oral cancer, or trauma. If one is discovered, our dental team can develop a customized treatment plan that provides the best opportunity to restore your gums to health and help prevent the condition from recurring.
What Gum Disease Treatments Are Available?
At Scripps Center for Dental Care, we offer a comprehensive range of advanced gum disease therapies designed to address this condition at every stage. If the concern is still in its earliest phases, we may recommend that you adjust your oral hygiene habits, such as flossing more often or utilizing a softer brushing technique, or modify certain behaviors to help improve your health. For moderate to advanced gum disease, we can perform one or more innovative procedures:
Scaling and Root Planing
For deeper, more comprehensive gum treatment, scaling and root planing can effectively address gum disease. This technique is designed to disinfect the pockets all the way to the tooth roots. Additionally, antibiotics can be directly placed in the area for concentrated treatment. To enhance your comfort during this and other periodontal procedures, we offer a number of patient amenities, as well as sedation dentistry options.
Laser technology can be used to enhance other dental hygiene treatments, including scaling and root planing, and to provide a more comfortable experience. Our state-of-the-art laser equipment quickly and efficiently clears away bacteria from deep within the gums. As with every treatment, your care and comfort are our highest priorities, and we will develop a treatment plan that can optimize your healing and results.
Pocket Reduction and Soft Tissue Graft
In advanced cases, gum disease can eventually lead to bone loss. This effect can lead to deepening gum pockets and more serious concerns. Pocket reduction is a minimally invasive surgical technique that removes infected tissue and helps secure your gum tissue to your teeth. In some cases, soft tissue grafts may be used to replace damaged or missing gum tissue and to restore the health and beauty of your smile.
Local Antibiotic Spot Therapies
To eliminate harmful bacteria in the gums, an antibiotic spot therapy can be very effective. In this treatment, antibiotics are delivered directly into the affected pocket. This approach typically offers better results and fewer side effects than taking antibiotic pills over a series of doses or using antibiotic rinses.
Crown lengthening is used for both cosmetic and functional purposes. If you have teeth that appear “short,” also known as a “gummy smile,” crown lengthening can help improve the appearance of your smile. In this procedure, gum tissue is reshaped to show more of the natural tooth. Crown lengthening is also sometimes recommended to create a better fit for a restoration such as a crown or bridge.
In the event a pocket does not respond to non-surgical treatment, osseous surgery may be advised as the final step in treating periodontal disease. This procedure is less invasive than it may sound, and involves smoothing and reshaping the affected bone. The result is a shallower pocket that is more resistant to harmful bacteria.
Bone density can degrade for a variety of reasons, including bacterial infection and tooth loss. Bone grafting is used to build back up the bone structure, typically for dental implants and other restorative treatments. Bone is usually taken from another area of your body or a special bone grafting material will be utilized and secured to your jawbone. Once healed, you should have a stronger bone structure that makes your treatment possible.
Guided Tissue Regeneration (GTR)
This technique is used to help stimulate the growth of new bone in an area suffering from damage and decay due to periodontal disease. A flap in the gums is created, the area beneath the gums is cleaned, and then a special type of membrane is placed to assist in bone healing and regeneration.
Dental Implant Placement
Our board-certified prosthodontist also places dental implants with great care for a strong, lasting outcome that looks just as beautiful as a natural smile. No other tooth replacement option can offer the same quality of results as dental implants.
Pinhole® Surgical Technique
Pinhole surgery uses a minimally invasive technique to restore the smile after gum recession has occurred. This method is less invasive with a typically shorter recovery time that traditional gum surgery, giving you the most advanced option to correct your gum concerns.
Would you like to know more? Contact our office today for more information or to schedule a consultation.