If you have been told you have periodontal (gum) disease you are one of many. Nearly fifty percent of adults in the U.S. currently have some form of the disease. Periodontal diseases can range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the worst cases, periodontal disease can result in tooth loss.
What causes gum disease?
Our mouths are full of bacteria. These bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colorless “plaque” on teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque, but plaque that is not removed can harden and form “tartar” that brushing doesn’t clean. Only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar.
Gingivitis The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more harmful they become. The bacteria cause inflammation of the gums that is called “gingivitis.” In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist. This form of gum disease doesn’t include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place.
Periodontitis When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to “periodontitis” (which means “inflammation around the tooth”). In periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces (called “pockets”) that become infected. The body’s immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Bacterial toxins and the body’s natural response to infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. The teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.
Symptoms of gum disease include:
• Bad breath that won’t go away
• Red or swollen gums
• Tender or bleeding gums
• Painful chewing
• Loose teeth
• Sensitive teeth
• Receding gums or longer appearing teeth
How is gum disease treated?
The main goal of treatment is to control the infection. The number and types of treatment will vary, depending on the extent of the gum disease. Any type of treatment requires that the patient keep up good daily care at home. The doctor may also suggest changing certain behaviors, such as quitting smoking, as a way to improve treatment outcome.
The dentist, periodontist, or dental hygienist removes the plaque through a deep-cleaning method called scaling and root planing. Scaling means scraping off the tartar from above and below the gum line. Root planing gets rid of rough spots on the tooth root where the germs gather, and helps remove bacteria that contribute to the disease. In some cases a laser may be used to remove plaque and tartar. This procedure can result in less bleeding, swelling, and discomfort compared to traditional deep cleaning methods.
LANAP® LANAP is one laser system that is used to treat periodontitis. The way to repair the damage is to get rid of the infection and close up the pockets. Until now, that meant surgery and sutures. But LANAP® is a patient-friendly, minimally-invasive procedure that’s a great improvement over standard gum surgery.
In most cases, your dentist or periodontist will schedule a consultation to explain how the laser works and give you a demonstration. Next, he or she will take X-rays to make a definitive diagnosis and determine the extent of the infection. When you return for your first LANAP® treatment, you’ll receive a local anesthetic to eliminate any possible discomfort. A tiny laser fiber (about the thickness of three hairs) is inserted between the teeth and the gum, and the infection is cleared away. The procedure is fast: It takes just two 2-hour sessions. Your dentist or periodontist will treat one half of your mouth at each session… and you’ll probably feel good enough to go right back to work afterwards.
Periodontal disease is nothing to ignore. The important thing to remember is to see your dentist regularly and if you have begun to develop periodontal disease, get the appropriate treatment to get it under control and stop any ongoing damage. Your smile is your most valuable feature. Don’t leave it to chance.
Source: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research