Deep Cleaning

Healthy Gums

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection that occurs in the gums, deep tissues and bones that support your teeth. (The word "periodontal" means "around the tooth.") Unless the disease is treated, it can ultimately lead to tooth loss. In fact, the American Academy of Periodontology lists gum disease as the primary cause of tooth loss in adults age 35 and over.

How Gum Disease Starts

Your mouth naturally produces a sticky substance called plaque. Without adequate brushing and flossing, this plaque builds up on your teeth. The bacteria in plaque produce poisons, or toxins, which irritate the gums, causing infection. As the infection increases in severity, it breaks down the bones and tissues that hold your teeth in place.

Gingivitis

The Two Primary Stages of Gum Disease

Gingivitis: The initial stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis, is the mildest form of the disease. During this stage, the gums become swollen and red, and may bleed with brushing or flossing. Gingivitis is frequently painless, and as a result, many people suffering from it don't seek advice or treatment. But with professional treatment and daily attention to oral hygiene, gingivitis can be reversed before it progresses.

Periodontitis

Periodontitis: Untreated gingivitis may develop into periodontitis, the more extreme form of the disease. In this stage, the infected gums begin to separate from the teeth. The newly created spaces between the gums and the teeth are called pockets. As the disease progresses, these pockets grow larger, allowing for greater damage to deep tissues as well as bone. When enough tissue and bone are affected, the teeth loosen and may fall out or need to be removed.

Signs To Watch For

Because gum disease can exist without pain or discomfort, it's important to be aware of the possible warning signs that may indicate a problem:

  • Gums that appear red or swollen
  • Gums that feel tender
  • Gums that bleed easily (during brushing or flossing)
  • Gums that recede or pull away from the teeth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • Any change in the way teeth come together in the biting position
  • Any change in the way partial dentures fit

If you suspect that you may be suffering from gingivitis or periodontitis, make an appointment with our office or your dentist immediately. We can diagnose the problem, determine how far the disease has progressed, and recommend an appropriate treatment.

Treatment Options

If you've been diagnosed with gum disease, there are a variety of treatment options depending on the particulars of your situation, especially the severity of the problem. We always start with the least invasive options, which are non-surgical. However, in more serious cases, surgery may be necessary.

Non-Surgical Treatment

The first line of defense against the presence of gum disease is a unique type of cleaning called "scaling and root planing." In this procedure, an ultrasonic cleaning device is used to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth where regular cleaning devices can't reach: under the gum line on the tooth and the root. Then the rough surface of the tooth and the root are smoothed out (planed). This provides a healthy, clean surface that makes it easier for the gum tissue to reattach to the tooth.

If you address your gum disease before it becomes severe, scaling and root planing may be the only treatment you need. However, as with any dental procedure, after-care is vital. In order to keep your teeth in good shape, and resist future occurrences of gum disease, you must brush and floss daily, eat a healthy diet, avoid tobacco use, and have regular dental check-ups. Even after a successful scaling and root planing, if you don't attend to your teeth properly, it's quite likely that you'll develop gum disease again.

Surgical Treatment Options

If the tissue or bone surrounding your teeth is too damaged to be repaired with non-surgical treatment, several surgical procedures are available to prevent severe damage and restore a healthy smile. We will recommend the procedure that is best suited to the condition of your teeth and gums. Following is a list of common types of periodontal surgery.

Pocket Depth Reduction

In a healthy mouth, the teeth are firmly surrounded by gum tissue and securely supported by the bones of the jaw. Periodontal disease damages these tissues and bones, leaving open spaces around the teeth that we call pockets. The larger these pockets are, the easier it is for bacteria to collect inside them, leading to more and more damage over time. Eventually the supportive structure degrades to the point that the tooth either falls out or needs to be removed.

During pocket reduction procedures (also known as "flap surgery"), we fold back the gum tissue and remove the bacteria hiding underneath, as well as the hardened plaque and tartar that have collected. We may also remove any tissue that is too damaged to survive. We then sew the healthy tissue back into place. Now that the tooth and root are free of bacteria, plaque and tartar, and the pockets have been reduced, the gums can reattach to the teeth.

Regeneration

When the bone and tissue supporting the teeth has been lost due to severe gum disease, we can restore these areas with a regeneration procedure. During this process, we begin by folding back the gum tissue and removing the bacteria, plaque and tartar. Depending on your situation, we may then perform a bone graft to stimulate new bone growth, or we may place a special kind of protein that stimulates tissue growth, to repair the areas that have been destroyed by the disease.

Soft-Tissue Graft

A frequent symptom of gum disease is gum recession (also called gingival recession). As the gums recede, more of the roots are revealed. This can make teeth appear longer and can also create sensitivity to hot or cold liquids or food. It also exposes the tooth to increased damage from gum disease, as bacteria, plaque and tartar attack the surface of the tooth and the root.

During a soft-tissue graft, tissue from the top of your mouth or another source is sewed to the gum area, covering the roots and restoring the gum line to its original, healthy location. This procedure can also be performed for cosmetic reasons.