What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal (gum) disease is a sneaky infection caused by bacteria in plaque, a sticky film that forms on your teeth. Over time, the plaque hardens into tartar, which is a haven for unwanted bacteria that attack the soft tissue around your gums.
Gum disease is more common than you might think, and the early stages can go unnoticed since they’re usually painless. But don’t let that fool you! Gum disease can progress quickly if left untreated and cause various dental problems, including tooth loss. The good news is that you can prevent it by combining regular visits to our Omaha or La Vista dental practices with an excellent at-home oral care routine.
Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s time to visit our dental office right away:
- Red or swollen gums
- Bleeding gums
- Teeth shifting positions
- Receding gum line
- Spaces or gaps between teeth
- Permanent bad breath (halitosis)
- Tenderness or discomfort
Don’t ignore these warning signs, as they could indicate that you’re in the early stages of gum disease. You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Panneton by calling us at (402) 934-5200.
Causes of Periodontal Disease
There are both genetic and environmental factors involved in the development of gum disease. In any case, the risk of suffering from periodontal disease is significantly decreased by taking preventive measures.
Some of the most common reasons why gum disease occurs are:
- Poor Dental Hygiene: Visiting your dentist twice a year combined with good at-home care will preserve the natural dentition and supporting bone structures. Brush twice a day, floss daily, and use an antibacterial mouthwash for optimal oral hygiene.
- Tobacco Use: Research shows that smoking and tobacco use is one of the most significant factors in the development and progression of gum disease.
- Genetic Predisposition: Despite practicing pristine oral hygiene routines, as much as 30 percent of the population has a strong predisposition for gum disease. Genetic tests can determine susceptibility. Early intervention can also be performed to keep your oral health in good shape.
- Grinding Teeth: Clenching or grinding teeth can significantly damage the supporting tissues surrounding the teeth. When a patient is suffering from gum disease, the additional destruction of gingival tissue due to teeth grinding can accelerate the progression of the disease.
Stages of Gum Disease
Gum disease progresses through three stages, each one more severe than the last:
- Gingivitis: This is the earliest stage of gum disease, and it’s characterized by mild inflammation and redness in your gums. You might notice some bleeding while brushing and flossing, but it’s reversible with our scaling and root planing treatment.
- Periodontitis: If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress to this stage. Your gums will start separating from your teeth, and plaque will harden and move closer to your tooth’s root, supporting fibers, and jawbone.
- Advanced Periodontitis: This is the most severe stage of gum disease, and can cause your teeth to become loose and require extraction. The supporting fibers and bone will be destroyed, and will most likely require extraction, so it’s critical to seek treatment as soon as possible.
Our Periodontal Treatment Options
There are various options when looking at treating periodontal disease, depending on how advanced the case has become. Before we decide on treatment, one of our dentists will perform a complete periodontal exam of the mouth.
Scaling and Root Planing
Scaling and root planing treatment are the most effective for patients with mild to moderate gum disease. We’ll remove hardened plaque and bacteria from under your gums. We’ll also smooth out the tooth roots to prevent bacteria from settling into the freshly cleaned area.
Pocket Reduction Surgery
Pocket reduction surgery is used to reverse the effects of gum disease and restore your mouth to a healthy state. This procedure will allow our dentists to visually view the damage, access the tooth root, and clean the infected area. In certain cases, we may have to suture the gum where the bone has resorbed.
When your gum tissue and bone have been compromised, regrowth can be actively encouraged using grafting procedures. A membrane may be inserted into the affected areas to assist in the tissue regeneration process.
Patients who have periodontitis often experience defects in the bone and around their teeth. To remove these defects, we can perform osseous (bone) surgery. This procedure is performed after a supplemental treatment, like scaling and root planing.
Osseous surgery reshapes the bone which holds your teeth in place. Depending on the severity of the case, the deformed bone may be removed, and the rest is shaped. Once the bones have returned to their original state, the gums are sutured to begin the healing process.
Frequently Asked Questions
To prevent periodontal disease from developing, your dentist recommends:
- Brush your teeth twice a day
- Floss daily
- Rinse your mouth after every meal
- Schedule biannual visits for checkups and professional cleaning at your dentist’s office
Gum disease can be diagnosed at your regular dental visits, your dentist will probe your gums and see if the pockets have gotten deep. If they noticed the gum pockets have progressed rapidly, we’ll inform you and provide you with treatment options.
You may feel some discomfort and swelling for a few weeks after a deep cleaning. Depending on the extent of the infection, it may take a while for the symptoms to go away.
In the meantime, you can take over-the-counter medications to help with the discomfort and pain. In addition to the post-care instructions, your dentist recommends rinsing your mouth with warm salt water to keep your mouth free from bacteria and heal your gums.
Yes, smoking is a significant risk factor for developing periodontal disease. Smoking weakens the immune system and makes it harder for the body to fight off infections, including those that cause gum disease. Additionally, smoking can reduce blood flow to the gums, making it harder for them to heal from gum infections.