As most of us know, regular brushing, flossing and dental checkups are essential to maintaining a healthy mouth. However, according to a 2012 CDC study, 47.2% of adults in the United States have some form of gum disease. This means that almost half of American adults are living with unhealthy diseases in their mouths, which is far too many.
How do so many people have gum disease? When leading an active and busy life, it is easy to allow a proper oral care routine to take a backseat. Many people eventually grow lazy with their dental hygiene, brushing their teeth for much too short and forgoing flossing altogether. While this is certainly not uncommon, it is crucial to correct these bad habits if you have picked them up. Dr. Leonard Schwartz of Thornhill Periodontics is here to explain what gum disease is and how gum disease treatment can take place outside of the dentist’s chair.
Gum disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gum tissue and supporting structures of the teeth. The bacteria in plaque and tartar is harmful to the gum tissue and can begin to erode the tissue away. In an effort to rid this bacteria from your body, your immune system releases substances that can damage the gums, periodontal ligament and alveolar bones.
Gum disease is progressive, which means that if left untreated, it will worsen over time. At the most advanced stage, gum disease can cause tooth loss and other health problems. Blood in the sink after brushing is a common occurrence that should be treated as a serious health concern. Bleeding gums indicates tenderness and inflammation, which is an early indicator of the disease.
Risk factors for gum disease include:
Gingivitis – Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease, characterized by the inflammation of the gums, caused by plaque buildup along the gum line. Symptoms of gingivitis include redness or swelling of the gums and bleeding while brushing or flossing. The bone and tissue have not been affected, so with prompt treatment, the disease can be reversed.
Periodontitis – At this stage of the disease, the gums and connective tissue are damaged. Pockets below the gum line have begun to form, allowing plaque to grow within the gum tissue. Professional periodontal therapy and an improved oral hygiene routine can usually prevent further damage to the tissues and bone.
Advanced Periodontitis – The bones and fibers of the teeth are irreversibly damaged at this stage of gum disease, which can cause teeth to shift or loosen. This can impact the sufferer’s ability to eat and communicate. If periodontal therapy can’t save the damaged teeth, the patient may require dental extraction.
Scaling and Root Planing
If your gingivitis has progressed to periodontitis, you will need professional gum disease treatment to prevent further damage to your gums. Depending on the severity of your condition, your dentist may first recommend a conservative nonsurgical treatment called scaling and root planing, or SRP. Your dentist will scrape the plaque and tartar from your teeth by scaling, and then smooth away any roughness on your roots to prevent bacteria from gathering again.
Once your teeth are free from bacteria and plaque, your gums will heal and reattach themselves to healthy surfaces of the teeth.
Pocket Reduction Procedure
If scaling and root planing do not solve your problem, your dentist may recommend periodontal pocket reduction. This process entails your surgeon folding back gum tissue and removing infectious bacteria, smoothing areas of damaged bone.
Gum grafts can cover exposed roots due to gum recession. Healthy tissue is taken from your palate and is then grafted to the exposed root, ultimately reducing sensitivity and minimizing the spread of decay.
Bone grafting is a surgical procedure that promotes the growth of healthy bone where it has been destroyed by gum disease. Your periodontist will remove bacteria and then place natural or synthetic bone in the area of bone loss. Coupled with tissue-stimulating proteins, this process helps your body effectively regrow bone and tissue.
While periodontal technology has greatly improved in the last several decades, Dr. Schwartz wants to stress that the best gum disease treatment is prevention. There are many ways even beyond regular brushing and flossing that patients can prevent gum disease from appearing or progressing in the first place:
Diet – Eating a balanced diet rich in omega-3, calcium and vitamin D can promote strong and healthy gum tissue. Keeping hydrated also helps reduce the amount of plaque and bacteria in the mouth.
Stress less – Patients who are under a high amount of stress tend to have worse dental hygiene habits than patients who stress less. Teeth grinding and snacking on unhealthy foods that can be harmful to the teeth are common habits of individuals with high stress. The body also releases cortisol when under a lot of stress, which can intensify the destruction of the gums.
Quit smoking – Smoking is not only dangerous to the gums but inflicts damage to the entire body. The plaque and tartar buildup that comes with smoking is dangerous to the health of the gums. Additionally, smoking can compromise periodontal treatments, rendering them ineffective.
Visit the doctor – Regular dentist visits are part of a good oral health routine. Your dentist or periodontist can determine whether you have early symptoms of gum disease, allowing you to take measures before it advances into something more dangerous and hard to treat.
Here at Thornhill Periodontics, your health is the top priority. We work hard to give all of our patients individualized attention and care to best treat their individual conditions. If you think that you may have symptoms of periodontitis, need restorative gum disease treatment or simply have questions about periodontal health, please contact our office to make an appointment.
Dr. Leonard Schwartz
8500 Leslie St. Suite 540
Canada L3T 7M8
Monday: 7:30am – 4:00pm
Tuesday: 12:00pm - 8:00pm
Wednesday: 12:00pm - 7:00pm
Thursday: 7:30am – 5:00pm
Saturday: 8:30am - 4:00pm (alternates)