Periodontal disease more commonly known as gum disease is the disease of the bone surrounding and supporting the tooth. Over time, as bone is lost, the gums follow making the teeth seem longer and looser. The gum tissue itself may look more red and bleed easily when brushing or flossing. A malodor or halitosis may result in lack of self confidence. In most cases, the patients with gum disease are used to the odor and hardly notice it. Usually it is a coworker or a loved one that has to go through the discomfort of telling the person that they have bad breath.
Over 70% of Americans have some form of gum disease. Periodontal disease begins innocently with skipping a dental visit and not flossing. Soon the soft plaque that pools where the teeth and gums meet turns into calculus. Calculus is the term for hardened plaque because it hasn’t been professionally removed. If left unchecked, this calculus starts to move below the gum tissue since it is a dark and wet environment and perfect for bacterial proliferation. When calculus moves below the gums, the jaw bone detects it as foreign material and tries to get away from it. We call this bone loss. Once the bone is lost the gum pockets get deeper creating an even better and deeper crevice for the bacteria. If left unchecked this progression goes on and on till one day patients notice that their teeth look longer and perhaps have more movement to them than they remember. Unfortunately gum disease doesn’t hurt till advanced stages. We call it the “silent disease of the mouth”.
Usually when patients have gone from gingivitis to mild or moderate periodontitis, your dentist may recommend a deep cleaning sometimes also known as root planing. This is usually performed under local anesthesia. Your dentist or dental hygienist will remove the calculus from the roots so that the gum tissue can attach itself to the tooth and the bacterial colonies are broken up.
There are many options in treating gum disease today. In conjunction with your deep cleaning, an antibiotic may be recommended to you. We are now capable of placing an antibiotic directly into the gum pockets so that they can work exactly where they are supposed to. In addition to the above treatments, laser gum therapy may be recommended. For more information on lasers and periodontal disease check out our laser blog.
If the above measurements don’t make improvements, a saliva DNA test can be performed to further evaluate exactly which bacteria are above acceptable levels. After all, we all have bacteria in our mouth. It is when they get above acceptable levels that they cause disease. Based on the results of this study, your dentist will be able to target a specific antibiotic that works on the specific bacteria that is proliferating in your mouth.
Gum disease has a genetic component and is multi factorial. A few tips to remember are to brush twice a day, floss at least once a day and please don’t miss your dental appointment. There is a reason us dentists nag you to tears to get in for your hygiene appointments. We can just envision those little bugs we used to look at under a microscope in dental school eating away at your bone. We want to do our job so please comply. Eating well and a diet rich in antioxidants and reducing stress also improve the health of your gums.
Remember, a healthy mouth is a healthy body since there are numerous valid studies linking gum disease to systemic disease such as heart disease, diabetes, premature birth or low birth weight babies.
Our dental office in Escondido, California takes gum disease very seriously. We are interested in your overall health. I also like to take a holistic approach to gum disease in addition to other treatments. I often give nutritional recommendation and lifestyle changes to reduce stress so that your body can heal itself. For more information on nutrition and gum disease check out our blog on antioxidants and gum disease. For a consultation be sure to call our office at 760-747-1811. Also, be sure to check out our new patient promotions!
Dr. Rabee McDonald