Gum Conditions and Treatments
Gingival recession (receding gums) refers to the progressive loss of gum tissue, which can eventually result in tooth root exposure if left untreated. Gum recession is most common in adults over the age of 40, but the process can begin in the teenage years.
Gum recession can be difficult to self-diagnose in its earlier stages because the changes often occur asymptomatically and gradually. Regular dental check ups will help to prevent gum recession and assess risk factors.
The following symptoms may be indicative of gum recession:
- Sensitive teeth – When the gums recede enough to expose the cementum protecting the tooth root, the dentin tubules beneath will become more susceptible to external stimuli.
- Visible roots – This is one of the main characteristics of a more severe case of gum recession.
- Longer-looking teeth – Individuals experiencing gingival recession often have a ?toothy? smile. The length of the teeth is perfectly normal, but the gum tissue has been lost, making the teeth appear longer.
- Halitosis, inflammation, and bleeding – These symptoms are characteristic of gingivitis or periodontal disease. A bacterial infection causes the gums to recede from the teeth and may cause tooth loss if not treated promptly.
Causes of Gum Recession
Gum recession is an incredibly widespread problem that dentists diagnose and treat on a daily basis. It is important to thoroughly examine the affected areas and make an accurate diagnosis of the actual underlying problem. Once the cause of the gum recession has been determined, surgical and non-surgical procedures can be performed to halt the progress of the recession and prevent it from occurring in the future.
The most common causes of gingival recession are:
- Overaggressive brushing – Over-brushing can almost be as dangerous to the gums as too little. Brushing too hard or brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush can erode the tooth enamel at the gum line and irritate/inflame gum tissue.
- Poor oral hygiene – When brushing and flossing are performed improperly or not at all, a plaque build up can begin to affect the teeth. The plaque contains various bacterial toxins which can promote infection and erode the underlying jawbone.
- Chewing tobacco – Any kind of tobacco use has devastating effects on the entire oral cavity, chewing tobacco in particular. It aggravates the gingival lining of the mouth and causes gum recession when used continuously.
- Periodontal disease – Periodontal disease can be a result of improper oral hygiene or caused by systemic diseases such as diabetes. The excess sugars in the mouth and narrowed blood vessels experienced by diabetics create a perfect environment for oral bacteria. The bacterium causes an infection which progresses deeper and deeper into the gum and bone tissue, eventually resulting in tooth loss.
Treatment of Gum Recession
Every case of gum recession is slightly different, therefore many treatments are available. The nature of the problem which caused the recession to begin with needs to be addressed first.
If overly aggressive brushing techniques are eroding the gums, a softer toothbrush and a gentler brushing technique should be used. If poor oral hygiene is a problem, prophylaxis (professional dental cleaning) may be recommended to rid the gum pockets of debris and bacteria. In the case of a severe calculus (tartar) build-up, scaling and root planing will be performed to heal gingival inflammation and clean the teeth.
Once the cause of the gingival recession has been addressed, surgery of a more cosmetic or restorative nature might be recommended. Gum tissue regeneration and gum grafting are two excellent ways to restore natural symmetry to the gums and make the smile look more aesthetically pleasing.
If you have any questions or concerns about periodontal disease, periodontal treatments, or gum recession, please contact our office.
GUM & JAWBONE CORRECTIVE TREATMENT
There are many reasons why the gums and jawbone may require corrective treatment, including periodontal disease, trauma and birth defects. Periodontal disease particularly, can greatly disfigure the natural appearance of the gums and teeth and give the smile an unaesthetic appearance.
New ?cosmetic surgery? procedures are now available in periodontics, which effectively correct cosmetic problems and restore natural beauty to the smile.
Here are some of the most common gum and jawbone corrective treatments:
Common Gum Treatments
- Crown lengthening (gum lift) – Crown lengthening is usually performed to correct a ?gummy? smile, or to expose more of the tooth prior to a restorative surgery. In some cases, the teeth look short and stubby and partly covered by gum tissue due to genetics or gingivitis. Excess gum tissue can easily be removed to reshape the outline of the gums, expose the natural tooth length, and provide a fuller, more attractive smile. The same procedure is also an excellent way to create a more aesthetic gumline for dental crowns and other restorative procedures.
- Gum grafts – Gum grafts are generally performed to correct a crooked smile, or to restore symmetry to the gumline after periodontal disease has been treated. Periodontal disease causes the gums to recede; making the smile look overly ?toothy.? During a gum graft, a thin strip of tissue is removed from the palate and stitched in place over the recession site. Gum grafts are often used to re-contour the gum line and give the teeth a more pleasing appearance.
- Pocket reduction surgery – Periodontal disease can cause the smile to be marred with unattractive teeth, brown gums and ridge indentations. The aim of pocket reduction surgery is to clean the root surfaces of the teeth subgingivally (beneath the gum line). During this procedure, tartar, plaque and bacteria that are affecting the teeth and gums will be removed. The gum is first gently separated away from the tooth, and then the calculus (tartar) and plaque are removed using special ultrasonic and hand instruments. An antimicrobial liquid may be administered to the area to destroy bacteria colonies and ensure the pockets are given the chance to naturally heal. Pocket reduction surgery is an effective way to restore health to the gums and bone.
Common Jawbone Treatments
- Sinus augmentation – This procedure is usually performed prior to the placement of dental implants, to ensure that the prosthetic teeth are both functional and firmly affixed to the bone. The success of an implant hinges on the quantity and quality of the jawbone to which it will be attached. If the jawbone has receded or been injured, a sinus augmentation can slightly elevate the sinus floor to allow new bone to form. Generally, a small incision is made in the bone and the underlying space is packed with grafting material. The incision is sutured closed, and the implant will be placed when healing has occurred.
- Ridge modification – Ridge modification procedures are used to treat deformities in the jawbone which have occurred due to periodontal disease, trauma or birth defects. Birth defects particularly, can leave an unattractive indentation in the jaw, which makes placing dental implants difficult. During the ridge modification procedure, the gum is gently pulled away from the bone to fully expose the defect. The defect is filled with bone graft material or a similar synthetic product and then sutured closed. When healing occurs, the cosmetic appearance of the jaw is much improved and implants can be successfully placed where necessary.
- Bone grafts ? There are a wide variety of reasons why a bone graft may be necessary. Bone grafting thickens the jawbone to allow for the successful placement of implant anchors. Bone grafts can also help elevate the sinus floor, fill craters or deformities in the jawbone itself, or allow for successful nerve repositioning. The grafting material may be harvested from the lower jaw, the iliac section of the pelvis, or synthetically created. In most cases, a small opening is made in the jawbone and packed with the bone graft material. Sutures are placed and restorative treatments are performed when healing is complete.
If you have questions or concerns regarding Gum or Jawbone corrective treatments please ask your dentist.
PROPHYLAXIS (TEETH CLEANING)
A dental prophylaxis is a cleaning procedure performed to thoroughly clean the teeth. Prophylaxis is an important dental treatment for halting the progression of periodontal disease and gingivitis.
Periodontal disease and gingivitis occur when bacteria from plaque colonize on the gingival (gum) tissue ? either above or below the gum line. These bacteria colonies cause serious inflammation and irritation which in turn produce a chronic inflammatory response in the body. As a result, the body begins to systematically destroy gum and bone tissue, making the teeth shift, become unstable, or completely fall out. The pockets between the gums and teeth become deeper and house more bacteria which may travel via the bloodstream and infect other parts of the body.
Reasons for prophylaxis/teeth cleaning
Prophylaxis is an excellent procedure to help keep the oral cavity in good health and also halt the progression of gum disease.
Here are some of the benefits of prophylaxis:
- Tartar removal – Tartar (calculus) and plaque buildup, both above and below the gum line, can cause serious periodontal problems if left untreated. Even using the best brushing and flossing homecare techniques, it can be impossible to remove debris, bacteria and deposits from gum pockets. The experienced eye of a dentist using specialized dental equipment is needed in order to spot and treat problems such as tartar and plaque buildup.
- Aesthetics – It’s hard to feel confident about a smile marred by yellowing, stained teeth. Prophylaxis can rid the teeth of unsightly stains and return the smile to its former glory.
- Fresher breath – Periodontal disease is often signified by persistent bad breath (halitosis). Bad breath is generally caused by a combination of rotting food particles below the gum line, possible gangrene stemming from gum infection, and periodontal problems. The removal of plaque, calculus and bacteria noticeably improves breath and alleviates irritation.
- Identification of health issues – Many health problems first present themselves to the dentist. Since prophylaxis involves a thorough examination of the entire oral cavity, the dentist is able to screen for oral cancer, evaluate the risk of periodontitis and often spot signs of medical problems like diabetes and kidney problems. Recommendations can also be provided for altering the home care regimen.
What does prophylaxis treatment involve?
Prophylaxis can either be performed in the course of a regular dental visit or, if necessary, under general anesthetic. The latter is particularly common where severe periodontal disease is suspected or has been diagnosed by the dentist. An endotracheal tube is sometimes placed in the throat to protect the lungs from harmful bacteria which will be removed from the mouth.
Prophylaxis is generally performed in several stages:
- Supragingival cleaning – The dentist will thoroughly clean the area above the gum line with scaling tools to rid them of plaque and calculus.
- Subgingival cleaning ? This is the most important step for patients with periodontal disease because the dentist is able to remove calculus from the gum pockets and beneath the gum line.
- Root planing – This is the smoothing of the tooth root by the dentist to eliminate any remaining bacteria. These bacteria are extremely dangerous to periodontitis sufferers, so eliminating them is one of the top priorities of the dentist.
- Medication – Following scaling and root planing, an antibiotic or antimicrobial cream is often placed in the gum pockets. These creams promote fast and healthy healing in the pockets and help ease discomfort.
- X-ray and examination – Routine X-rays can be extremely revealing when it comes to periodontal disease. X-rays show the extent of bone and gum recession, and also aid the dentist in identifying areas which may need future attention.
Prophylaxis is recommended twice annually as a preventative measure, but should be performed every 3-4 months on periodontitis sufferers. Though gum disease cannot be completely reversed, prophylaxis is one of the tools the dentist can use to effectively halt its destructive progress.
If you have questions or concerns about prophylaxis or periodontal disease, please contact our practice.
Bruxism refers to an oral parafunctional activity that occurs in most humans at some point in their lives. Grinding of the teeth and clenching of the jaw are the two main characteristics of this condition, which can occur during the day or at night.
Bruxism is one of the most common known sleep disorders and causes most of its damage during sleeping hours. The clenching and grinding which accompanies bruxism is symptomatic of a malfunctioning chewing reflex, which is turned off in non-sufferers when sleeping. For sufferers, deep sleep or even naps cause the reflex nerve control center in the brain to turn off and the reflex pathways to become active.
Typically, the incisors and canines (front 6 upper and lower teeth) of opposing arches grind against each other laterally. This side to side action puts undue strain on the medial pterygoid muscles and the temporomandibular joints. Earache, depression, headaches, eating disorders, and anxiety are among the most common symptoms of bruxism; these symptoms also accompany health issues such as chronic stress, Alzheimer’s disease, and alcohol abuse.
Bruxism is frequently misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all, because it is only one of several potential causes of tooth wear. Only a trained professional can tell the difference between bruxing wear and wear caused by overly aggressive brushing, acidic soft drinks, and abrasive foods.
A BiteStrip® is an economical device used to diagnose bruxism at home. The device itself is a small electromyography which senses and monitors any activity in the jaw muscles during sleep. The frequency and severity of the condition can then be assessed and the best treatment plan can be formulated.
Reasons for the treatment of bruxism
Here are some of the main reasons why bruxism should be promptly treated:
- Gum recession and tooth loss – Bruxism is one of the leading causes of gum recession and tooth loss. It damages the soft tissue directly and leads to loose teeth and deep pockets, where bacteria can colonize and destroy the supporting bone.
- Occlusal trauma – The abnormal wear patterns on the occlusal (chewing) surfaces can lead to fractures in the teeth, which may require restorative treatment.
- Arthritis – In severe and chronic cases, bruxing can eventually lead to painful arthritis in the temporomandibular (TMJ) joints (the joints that allow the jaw to open smoothly).
- Myofascial pain – The grinding associated with bruxism can eventually shorten and blunt the teeth. This can lead to debilitating headaches and muscle pain in the myofascial region.
Treatment options for bruxism
There is no single cure for bruxism, though a variety of helpful devices and tools are available. Here are some common ways in which bruxism is treated:
- Mouthguards – An acrylic mouthguard can be designed from tooth impressions to minimize the abrasive action of tooth surfaces during normal sleep. Mouthguards should be worn on a long-term basis to help to stabilize the occlusion as well as prevent damage to teeth and to the temporomandibular joint.
- NTI-tss device – This device is fitted by a health professional and only covers the front teeth. The goal of the NTI-tss is to prevent the grinding of the rear molars by limiting the contraction of the temporalis muscle.
- Botox® – Botox® can be injected into the muscles to relax and weaken them. Botox® is an excellent treatment for bruxism because it weakens the muscles enough to prevent grinding but not enough to interfere with everyday functions like chewing and speaking.
Other methods of treatment include relaxation exercises, stress management education, and biofeedback mechanisms. When the bruxing is under control, there are a variety of dental procedures such as crowns, gum grafts, and crown lengthening that can restore a pleasant aesthetic appearance to the smile.
If you have questions or concerns about bruxism, please contact our office.
PERIODONTAL SCALING AND ROOT PLANING
The objective of scaling and root planing is to remove etiologic agents which cause inflammation to the gingival (gum) tissue and surrounding bone. Common etiologic agents removed by this conventional periodontal therapy include dental plaque and tartar (calculus).
These non-surgical procedures which completely cleanse the periodontium, work very effectively for individuals suffering from gingivitis (mild gum inflammation) and moderate/severe periodontal disease.
Reasons for scaling and root planing
Scaling and root planing can be used both as a preventative measure and as a stand-alone treatment. These procedures are performed as a preventative measure for a periodontitis sufferer.
Here are some reasons why these dental procedures may be necessary:
- Disease prevention – The oral bacteria which cause periodontal infections can travel via the bloodstream to other parts of the body. Research has shown that lung infections and heart disease have been linked to periodontal bacteria. Scaling and root planing remove bacteria and halts periodontal disease from progressing, thus preventing the bacteria from traveling to other parts of the body.
- Tooth protection – When gum pockets exceed 3mm in depth, there is a greater risk of periodontal disease. As pockets deepen, they tend to house more colonies of dangerous bacteria. Eventually, a chronic inflammatory response by the body begins to destroy gingival and bone tissue which may lead to tooth loss. Periodontal disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in the developed world.
- Aesthetic effects – Scaling and root planing help remove tartar and plaque from the teeth and below the gumline. As an added bonus, if superficial stains are present on the teeth, they will be removed in the process of the scaling and root planing procedure.
- Better breath – One of the most common signs of periodontal disease is halitosis (bad breath). Food particles and bacteria can cause a persistent bad odor in the oral cavity which is alleviated with cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planing.
What do scaling and root planing treatments involve?
Scaling and root planing treatments are only performed after a thorough examination of the mouth. The dentist will take X-rays, conduct visual examinations and make a diagnosis before recommending or beginning these procedures.
Depending on the current condition of the gums, the amount of calculus (tartar) present, the depth of the pockets and the progression of the periodontitis, local anesthetic may be used.
Scaling – This procedure is usually performed with special dental instruments and may include an ultrasonic scaling tool. The scaling tool removes calculus and plaque from the surface of the crown and root surfaces. In many cases, the scaling tool includes an irrigation process that can also be used to deliver an antimicrobial agent below the gums that can help reduce oral bacteria.
Root Planing – This procedure is a specific treatment which serves to remove cementum and surface dentin that is embedded with unwanted microorganisms, toxins and tartar. The root of the tooth is literally smoothed in order to promote good healing. Having clean, smooth root surfaces helps bacteria from easily colonizing in future.
Following these deep cleaning procedures, the gum pockets may be treated with antibiotics. This will soothe irritation and help the gum tissues to heal quickly.
During the next appointment, the dentist or hygienist will thoroughly examine the gums again to see how well the pockets have healed. If the gum pockets still measure more than 3mm in depth, additional and more intensive treatments may be recommended.
If you have any concerns or questions about scaling and root planing, or periodontal disease, please ask your dentist.
Periodontal disease is an extremely serious progressive condition which can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. Periodontal disease occurs when a bacterial infection in the gum pockets causes the bone and gum tissue to recede away from the teeth. The quality and quantity of bone and gum tissue is greatly reduced as the gum pockets continue to deepen. Fortunately, prompt diagnosis combined with effective regenerative procedures can halt the progression of the disease and save the teeth.
There are many regenerative dental procedures available to restore health to the gums, bone and teeth. The following are the most commonly used regenerative procedures:
Dental implants and other restorative procedures depend on the jawbone being sufficiently strong and thick. When periodontal disease has taken hold, the jawbone may have become too thin to successfully support an implant. Natural bone regeneration (or bone grafting) is one of the best ways to promote growth and thicken the jawbone.
Initially, bone grafting material is obtained from elsewhere on the body or from a bone bank. The gums are gently pulled back, and an opening is made in the jawbone where the grafting material will be packed in tightly. A membrane is used to maintain the shape of the new bone, and tissue stimulating proteins and a platelet-rich growth factor may be applied to promote faster healing. The surgical site will be sutured and packed with protective material. The bone will naturally regenerate and become strong enough to eventually support an implant.
Gum Tissue Regeneration
Gum tissue regeneration is usually performed by way of gum grafting. When gum tissue has been lost as a result of periodontal disease, the smile may appear discolored, toothy or unpleasant. A gum graft aims to symmetrically contour the gum line, cover any exposed tooth roots and restore health to the gums. Initially, a small strip of tissue will be removed from the roof of the mouth and placed in the middle of a split-thickness incision at the recipient site. The surgical site will be covered with a protective membrane which promotes tissue regeneration, covered in platelet-rich growth factor and tissue stimulating proteins, and then sutured closed. The soft tissue surrounding the teeth will naturally regenerate, producing a healthy, smile.
Pocket Reduction Surgery
The aim of pocket reduction surgery is to reduce the depth of the gum pockets and make it much harder for bacteria to invade the gum tissue. Initially, the gum tissue is pulled back from the teeth and the subgingival area is thoroughly cleansed under local anesthesia.
Extensive scraping may be required to fully remove the plaque, debris and tartar from below the gum line. An antimicrobial agent may then be applied to the affected area to kill any remaining bacteria, and the surgical site will be sutured closed. Pocket reduction surgery is very effective for halting tissue loss and promoting the natural healing of the gums.
Scaling and Root Planing
The term ?scaling? refers to the removal of plaque and calculus (tartar) from the supragingival region (above the gum line). This treatment is usually conducted in the course of a routine professional cleaning, and performed under local anesthetic. Root planing usually accompanies scaling and is performed in the subgingival region (below the gum line). Tartar and toxins are initially removed, and then the tooth root is smoothed down to promote good healing in the gum tissue. The planing of the tooth root provides a smooth area which prevents bacteria from recolonizing. If these procedures do not completely eradicate the infection, surgical measures may be required.
If you have any questions about regenerative procedures or periodontal disease, please ask your dentist.
TYPES OF PERIODONTAL DISEASES
Periodontal disease (also known as periodontitis and gum disease) is a progressive disease which affects the supporting and surrounding tissue of the gums, and also the underlying jawbone. If left untreated, periodontal disease can result in loose, unstable teeth, and even tooth loss. Periodontal disease is in fact the leading cause of tooth loss in adults in the developed world and should not be taken lightly.
Periodontal disease begins when the toxins found in plaque start to attack the soft or gingival tissue surrounding the teeth. This bacterium embeds itself in the gum and rapidly breeds, causing a bacterial infection. As the infection progresses, it starts to burrow deeper into the tissue causing inflammation or irritation between the teeth and gums. The response of the body is to destroy the infected tissue, which is why the gums appear to recede. The resulting pockets between the teeth deepen and, if no treatment is sought, the tissue which makes up the jawbone also recedes causing unstable teeth and tooth loss.
Types of Periodontal Disease
There are many different varieties of periodontal disease, and many ways in which these variations manifest themselves. All require immediate treatment by a periodontist to halt the progression and save the gum tissue and bone.
Here are some of the most common types of periodontal disease along with the treatments typically performed to correct them:
Gingivitis is the mildest and most common form of periodontitis. It is caused by the toxins in plaque and leads to periodontal disease. People at increased risk of developing gingivitis include pregnant women, women taking birth control pills, people with uncontrolled diabetes, steroid users and people who control seizures and blood pressure using medication.
Treatment: Gingivitis is easily reversible using a solid combination of home care and professional cleaning. The dentist may perform root planing and deep scaling procedures to cleanse the pockets of debris. A combination of antibiotics and medicated mouthwashes may be used to kill any remaining bacteria and promote the good healing of the pockets.
Chronic Periodontal Disease
Chronic periodontal disease is the most common form of the disease, and occurs much more frequently in people over 45. Chronic periodontal disease is characterized by inflammation below the gum line and the progressive destruction of the gingival and bone tissue. It may appear that the teeth are gradually growing in length, but in actuality the gums are gradually recessing.
Treatment: Unfortunately unlike gingivitis, chronic periodontal disease cannot be completely cured because the supportive tissue cannot be rebuilt. However, the dentist can halt the progression of the disease using scaling and root planing procedures in combination with antimicrobial treatments. If necessary, the periodontist can perform surgical treatments such as pocket reduction surgery and also tissue grafts to strengthen the bone and improve the aesthetic appearance of the oral cavity.
Aggressive Periodontal Disease
Aggressive periodontal disease is characterized by the rapid loss of gum attachment, the rapid loss of bone tissue and familial aggregation. The disease itself is essentially the same as chronic periodontitis but the progression is much faster. Smokers and those with a family history of this disease are at an increased risk of developing aggressive periodontitis.
Treatment: The treatments for aggressive periodontal disease are the same as those for chronic periodontal disease, but aggressive periodontal disease sufferers are far more likely to require a surgical intervention. This form of the disease is harder to halt and treat, but the dentist will perform scaling, root planing, antimicrobial, and in some cases laser procedures in an attempt to save valuable tissue and bone.
Periodontal Disease Relating to Systemic Conditions
Periodontal disease can be a symptom of a disease or condition affecting the rest of the body. Depending on the underlying condition, the disease can behave like aggressive periodontal disease, working quickly to destroy tissue. Heart disease, diabetes and respiratory disease are the most common cofactors, though there are many others. Even in cases where little plaque coats the teeth, many medical conditions intensify and accelerate the progression of periodontal disease.
Treatment: Initially, the medical condition which caused the onset of periodontal disease must be controlled. The dentist will halt the progression of the disease using the same treatments used for controlling aggressive and chronic periodontal disease.
Necrotizing Periodontal Disease
This form of the disease rapidly worsens and is more prevalent among people who suffer from HIV, immunosuppression, malnutrition, chronic stress or choose to smoke. Tissue death (necrosis) frequently affects the periodontal ligament, gingival tissues and alveolar bone.
Treatment: Necrotizing periodontal disease is extremely rare. Because it may be associated with HIV or another serious medical condition, it is likely the dentist will consult with a physician before commencing treatment. Scaling, root planing, antibiotic pills, medicated mouth wash and fungicidal medicines are generally used to treat this form of the disease.
If you have any question or concerns about the different types of periodontal disease and treatments, please ask your dentist.
Periodontal treatment methods depend upon the type and severity of the disease. Your dentist and dental hygienist will evaluate for periodontal disease and recommend the appropriate treatment.
Periodontal disease progresses as the sulcus (pocket or space) between the tooth and gums gets filled with bacteria, plaque, and tartar, causing irritation to the surrounding tissues. When these irritants remain in the pocket space, they can cause damage to the gums and eventually, the bone that supports the teeth!
If the disease is caught in the early stages of gingivitis, and no damage has been done, one to two regular cleanings will be recommended. You will also be given instructions on improving your daily oral hygiene habits and having regular dental cleanings.
If the disease has progressed to more advanced stages, a special periodontal cleaning called scaling and root planing (deep cleaning) will be recommended. It is usually done one quadrant of the mouth at a time while the area is numb. In this procedure, tartar, plaque, and toxins are removed from above and below the gum line (scaling) and rough spots on root surfaces are made smooth (planing). This procedure helps gum tissue to heal and pockets to shrink. Medications, special medicated mouth rinses, and an electric tooth brush may be recommended to help control infection and healing.
If the pockets do not heal after scaling and root planing, periodontal surgery may be needed to reduce pocket depths, making teeth easier to clean. Your dentist may also recommend that you see a periodontist (specialist of the gums and supporting bone).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
Periodontal disease (also known as periodontitis and gum disease) is a progressive condition and the leading cause of tooth loss amongst adults in the developed world. Periodontal disease occurs when the toxins found in plaque begin to irritate or inflame the gingiva (gum tissue). The resulting bacterial infection often known as gingivitis, can eventually lead to the destruction of the gum tissue and underlying bone. If periodontal disease is not treated, it can also lead to loose teeth or tooth loss.
There are many common types of periodontal disease including aggressive, chronic, necrotizing periodontitis, and periodontitis associated with systemic diseases. Each of these types of periodontal disease has its own distinct characteristics and symptoms, and all require prompt treatment by a dentist to halt subsequent bone and tissue loss.
Common Signs & Symptoms
It is extremely important to note that periodontal disease can progress without any signs or symptoms such as pain. This is why regular dental checkups are exceptionally important. Described below are some of the most common signs and symptoms of periodontitis.
If you have any of these signs or symptoms, the advice of a general dentist or periodontist should be sought as soon as possible:
- Unexplained bleeding ? Bleeding when brushing, flossing or eating food is one of the most common symptoms of a periodontal infection. The toxins in plaque cause a bacterial infection which makes the tissues prone to bleeding.
- Pain, redness or swelling ? A periodontal infection may be present if the gums are swollen, red or painful for no apparent reason. It is essential to halt the progression of the infection before the gum tissue and jaw bone have been affected. It is also critical to treat the infection before it is carried into the bloodstream to other areas of the body.
- Longer-looking teeth ? Periodontal disease can lead to gum recession. The toxins produced by bacteria can destroy the supporting tissue and bones, thus making the teeth look longer and the smile appear more ?toothy.?
- Bad breath/halitosis ? Although breath odor can originate from the back of the tongue, the lungs and stomach, the food we consume, or from tobacco use, bad breath can also be caused by old food particles that sit between the teeth and underneath the gumline. The deeper gum pockets are able to house more debris and bacteria, causing a foul odor.
- Loose teeth/change in bite pattern ? A sign of rapidly progressing periodontitis is the loosening or shifting of the teeth in the affected area. As the bone tissue gets destroyed, teeth that were once firmly attached to the jawbone become loose or may shift in position.
- Pus – Pus oozing from between the teeth is a definitive sign that a periodontal infection is in progress. The pus is a result of the body trying to fight the bacterial infection.
Treatment of Periodontal Disease
It is of paramount importance to halt the progression of periodontal disease before it causes further damage to the gum tissues and jawbone. The dentist will initially assess the whole mouth in order to ascertain the progress of the disease. When a diagnosis has been made, the dentist may treat the bacterial infection with antibiotics in conjunction with nonsurgical or surgical treatment or both.
In the case of moderate periodontal disease, the pockets (under the gumline) of the teeth will be completely cleared of debris using a procedure called scaling and root planing. The pockets may be filled with antibiotics to promote good healing and kill any bacteria that remain.
Severe periodontitis can be treated in several different ways, such as:
- Laser treatment ? This can be used to reduce the size of the pockets between the teeth and the gums.
- Tissue & bone grafting ? Where a considerable amount of bone or gum tissue has been destroyed, the dentist may elect to graft new tissue by inserting a membrane to stimulate tissue growth.
- Pocket elimination surgery ? The dentist may choose to perform ?flap surgery? to directly reduce the size of the gum pockets.
If you have any further questions about the signs and symptoms of periodontal disease, please contact us!
CAUSES OF PERIODONTAL DISEASE
Periodontal disease, which is also known as gum disease and periodontitis, is a progressive disease which, if left untreated, may result in tooth loss. Gum disease begins with the inflammation and irritation of the gingival tissues which surround and support the teeth. The cause of this inflammation is the toxins found in plaque which cause an ongoing bacterial infection.
The bacterial infection colonizes in the gingival tissue, and deep pockets form between the teeth and the gums. If treated promptly by a periodontist, the effects of mild inflammation (known as gingivitis) are completely reversible. However, if the bacterial infection is allowed to progress, periodontal disease begins to destroy the gums and the underlying jawbone, promoting tooth loss. In some cases, the bacteria from this infection can travel to other areas of the body via the bloodstream.
Common Causes of Gum Disease
There are genetic and environmental factors involved in the onset of gum disease, and in many cases, the risk of developing periodontitis can be significantly lowered by taking preventative measures.
Here are some of the most common causes of gum disease:
- Poor dental hygiene – Preventing dental disease starts at home with good oral hygiene and a balanced diet. Prevention also includes regular dental visits which include exams, cleanings, and x-rays. A combination of excellent home care and professional dental care will preserve the natural dentition and support of bony structures. When bacteria and calculus (tartar) are not removed, the gums and bone around the teeth become affected by bacterial toxins and can cause gingivitis or periodontitis, which ultimately lead to tooth loss.
- Tobacco use – Research has indicated that smoking and tobacco use are some of the most significant factors in the development and progression of gum disease. In addition to smokers experiencing a slower recovery and healing rate, smokers are far more likely to suffer from calculus (tartar) build-up on teeth, deep pockets in the gingival tissue, and significant bone loss.
- Genetic predisposition – Despite practicing rigorous oral hygiene routines, as much as 30% of the population may have a strong genetic predisposition to gum disease. These individuals are six times more likely to develop periodontal disease than individuals with no genetic predisposition. Genetic tests can be used to determine susceptibility and early intervention can be performed to keep the oral cavity healthy.
- Pregnancy and menopause – During pregnancy, regular brushing and flossing is critical. Hormonal changes experienced by the body can cause the gum tissue to become more sensitive, rendering them more susceptible to gum disease.
- Chronic stress and poor diet – Stress lowers the ability of the immune system to fight off disease which means bacterial infection can beat the body’s defense system. Poor diet or malnutrition can also lower the body’s ability to fight periodontal infections, as well as negatively affecting the health of the gums.
Diabetes and underlying medical issues – Many medical conditions can intensify or accelerate the onset and progression of gum disease including respiratory disease, heart disease, arthritis and osteoporosis. Diabetes hinders the body’s ability to utilize insulin which makes the bacterial infection in the gums more difficult to control and cure.
- Grinding teeth – The clenching or grinding of teeth can significantly damage the supporting tissue surrounding the teeth. Grinding one’s teeth is usually associated with a ?bad bite? or the misalignment of the teeth. When an individual is suffering from gum disease, the additional destruction of gingival tissue due to grinding can accelerate the progression of the disease.
- Medication – Many drugs including oral contraceptive pills, heart medicines, anti-depressants, and steroids affect the overall condition of teeth and gums, making them more susceptible to gum disease. Steroid use promotes gingival overgrowth, which makes swelling more commonplace and allows bacteria to colonize more readily in the gum tissue.
Treatment of Gum Disease
Periodontists specialize in the treatment of gum disease and the placement of dental implants. A periodontist can perform effective cleaning procedures in deep pockets such as scaling and root planing; they can also prescribe antibiotic and antifungal medications to treat infection and halt the progression of the disease.
In the case of tooth loss, the periodontist is able to perform tissue grafts to promote natural tissue regeneration, and insert dental implants if a tooth or several teeth are missing. Where gum recession causes a “toothy” looking smile, the periodontist can recontour the gingival tissue to create an even and aesthetically pleasing appearance.
Preventing periodontal disease is critical in preserving the natural dentition. Addressing the causes of gum disease and discussing them with your dentist will help prevent the onset, progression, and recurrence of periodontal disease.
If you have any questions or concerns about the causes or treatments pertaining to gum disease, please ask your dentist.