Want to keep your natural teeth for as long as possible? Of course you do! In order to do this, you not only need to take care of your teeth, but the structures that surround them as well, namely the gums. Without proper care, a person can easily develop gum disease, which is actually the #1 cause of adult tooth loss in the US! To make sure our patients’ smiles stay nice and whole, our team performs gum screenings at every routine checkup, looking for signs of infection. If we find anything, we have a number of therapies that can target and eliminate bacteria before it can cause any damage.
Gum disease usually develops due to a lack of oral hygiene, which allows plaque and bacteria to accumulate below the gum line. Early symptoms can include red, swollen, or tender gums that bleed whenever you clean them, but left untreated, the infection can become much more serious.
Advanced gum disease can lead to gum recession, chronic bad breath, loose teeth, and eventually…tooth loss. In addition to the issues it can cause for oral health, gum disease has also been shown to have a strong link to several overall health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and even dementia!
If we determine that a patient does indeed have gum disease, our first course of treatment will involve a deep cleaning known as scaling and root planing. First, an ultrasonic cleaner will be used to break up and remove any plaque and tartar built up around the gums (scaling), and then the rough surfaces of the teeth’s roots will be gently smoothed out. Why do this? This makes plaque less likely to gather on the gums in the future, protecting a patient from reinfections.
To help us reach bacteria that is hidden deep below the gum line, we can place what is called a PerioChip into a patient’s mouth. It’s a small disc only a few millimeters wide that is actually a congealed form of a powerful antimicrobial agent. We can place a chip just below the gum line, and it will slowly dissolve over the next few days, enabling the medicine to kill any leftover bacteria. Up to eight PerioChips can be placed at a time depending on the extent of a patient’s infection.
While we’re able to help many patients successfully treat and manage their gum disease, in some situations, we may need to refer a patient to an outside specialist, known as a periodontist. They’ll be able to perform a number of advanced procedures capable of addressing various issues caused by gum disease. Some of these treatments include:
Of course, as with all dental problems, our preferred approach is prevention. Fortunately, taking great care of your gums is very similar to looking after your teeth. Patients simply need to brush and floss regularly as well as come see us for routine checkups and cleanings. The key is to make sure you brush where your gums meet your teeth and floss slightly under the gum line because this is where bacteria is most likely to gather.
Using tobacco of any kind can bolster harmful oral bacteria as well, so avoiding these products is the best way to ensure your long-term oral health. Alcohol and certain medications can also lead to dry mouth, which makes it much easier for gum disease bacteria to multiply. Avoiding excess alcohol, potentially switching to a different medication, and chewing sugar-free gum are all excellent ways to lower your risk of developing gum disease.