Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums that surround your teeth. It is one of the primary causes of tooth loss in adults. Because it is virtually pain-free, you may not know you have gum disease. That’s why it’s so important to schedule regular checkups at our North Seattle dental office. Dr. Muy Sun or a member of our hygiene team will check for signs of periodontal disease by measuring the space between your teeth and gums; if gum disease is present, we’ll help you decide the best course of treatment.
Gum disease forms just below the gum line and creates small pockets that separate the gums from the teeth. It has two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease, when the gums become red and swollen, and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is treatable and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing. If left untreated, gingivitis will advance into periodontitis, and the gums and bone that support the teeth will become seriously and irreversibly damaged. Gums infected with periodontitis can cause teeth to loosen, fall out, or need to be extracted.
Gum Disease Causes and Symptoms
Gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque, a sticky form of bacteria that forms on the teeth. If the plaque is not removed (by flossing, brushing, and regular professional cleanings), it will continue to build up and create toxins that can damage the gums.
The most common factor that can increase the risk of developing gum disease is smoking or chewing tobacco. Other health occurrences, like pregnancy or diabetes, and certain types of medication, such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, calcium channel blockers, and oral contraceptives, can also raise the probability of gum disease.
Maintaining good oral health is the best way to prevent gum disease. If you have a bridge or denture that no longer fits properly, crooked teeth, or old fillings, talk to us about your restoration options.
While it is possible to have periodontal disease and not know it, some symptoms can include:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Loose or separating permanent teeth
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Any change in the fit of partial dentures
Gum Disease Treatment
Depending on the severity of each individual case, treatments for gum disease can vary. Typical treatments include at-home periodontal antibiotic trays, scaling and root planing (deep cleaning), periodontal surgery, and laser gum surgery.
Root planing and scaling (deep-cleaning)
Root planing and scaling are the most effective ways to treat gum disease when the gum pockets are greater than three millimeters. Root planing and scaling removes plaque and tarter beneath the gums and the teeth down to the roots. The root surfaces are smoothed (planed). Clean and smooth root surfaces allows the gums to heal and makes it more difficult for plaque to cling.
A local anesthetic may be used to numb your gums and the roots of your teeth during the procedure. Medications to help control infection and pain may be recommended, depending on the severity of the gum disease.
At a follow-up appointment, usually six weeks after your scaling and root planing appointment, your gum pockets are checked for healing, health, and size. If pockets greater than three millimeters persist, additional periodontal treatment and/or referral to a specialist may be recommended.
Gum Disease Prevention
You don’t have to lose teeth to periodontal disease. Regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are important to maintain your health and the health of your smile. By practicing good oral hygiene at home, you can significantly reduce your chances of ever getting gum disease.
Remember to brush regularly, floss between your teeth, eat a balanced diet, and schedule regular dental visits at our North Seattle, WA dental office to help keep your smile healthy and free of gum disease!