Do you have gums that are red, puffy, irritated, or bleed when you brush or floss? This is known as gingivitis, and it is the first stage of gum disease, a common and potentially serious ailment that can threaten both your oral and overall health.
Left untreated, gum disease can cause or contribute do a host of issues, including:
- Tooth loss
- Bone deterioration
- Premature births
- Low birth weight in babies
- Increased risk for heart disease and strokes
- Cancer (certain types)
In fact, research by the American Academy of Periodontology shows that patients with gum disease are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease, quite simply, can be caused by improper oral hygiene, age, certain medical conditions or medications.
Gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque and tartar. Plaque is typically a colorless, sticky substance that builds up on the teeth. Plaque forms from bacteria that are allowed to accumulate in the mouth due to the lack, or improper forms, of oral hygiene. If not removed with regular brushing and flossing, plaque will harden and become tartar, which can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning.
Symptoms of gum disease include the following:
- Consistently bad breath
- Pain or sensitivity when chewing
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
- Tooth loss
- Swollen gums
- Bleeding gums
If allowed to continue, gum disease progresses from gingivitis to periodontitis, a more serious stage where pockets form around the roots of teeth under the gum line, collecting even more plaque and bacteria, which erode the jawbone and cause gum recession. A professional dental cleaning is the only way to clean these periodontal pockets. If not treated, periodontitis will worsen and lead to tooth loss.
There are a variety of treatments available for periodontal disease, including laser therapy, non-surgical periodontal therapy, and antibiotic treatments. When you visit our office, Dr. Brian J. Hockel and Dr. Rebecca Jardine will examine your mouth to determine the most effective treatment for you.
Laser treatments have been proven effective in sterilizing the bacteria that create infections in gum tissue. This procedure is a shorter, more precise method of preventing and treating gum disease than traditional gum surgery, which is still recommended when necessary. It preserves a greater amount of healthy gum tissue, has less recovery time and is safe for patients with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or hemophilia, or who take blood thinners.
Non-surgical Periodontal Therapy is an effective treatment for gum disease in the early stages. It involves a scheduled series of procedures at specific intervals, and it aims to combat gum disease. Periodontal Therapy is appropriate when active disease is present. The procedures focus on specific areas of the mouth at each appointment, and it involves applying an anesthetic to numb the area for comfort. Treatments below the gum line far exceed typical procedures in preventive hygiene appointments, and include use of lasers, hand instrumentation and microsonic cleaning. Repetitive therapy describes how the hygienist will focus on a specific area of the mouth, and then also treat the previously-treated areas at each appointment. Starting with the most involved areas, healing proceeds much better with this approach.
This is an oral antibiotic that is applied directly to the gums to kill bacteria that causes periodontitis. It is usually prescribed as an add-on treatment along with other periodontal therapies.
How Can I Prevent Gum Disease?
A good regimen of at-home oral hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing, as well as routine dental cleanings and examinations, can eliminate the accumulation of plaque and keep your oral health on track. We all get plaque in our teeth, but good oral hygiene and routine dental checkups and cleanings can help keep the buildup to a minimum.
Periodontal disease must be treated by a dental professional. While there is no way to completely cure the disease, catching it in its earliest stages will prevent any long-term damage to your oral health. For more information about our treatments for gum disease in Walnut Creek, California, and to make your appointment at Life Dental & Orthodontics, please call us at 925-478-7776.