General & Preventive Dentistry
Gum Disease Therapy
The most common disease in the United States is not what you may think. Heart disease, stroke, or cancer come to mind, but actually gum disease is the single most prevalent disease in America. In fact, it affects more people than heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's, and cancer combined. About 80% of the population has some form of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, periodontitis (advanced), and gingivitis (mild).
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an infection of the gums and bone that support teeth. It can start early in life in the mild form, gingivitis, which is reversible. It can then progress if not treated as a person ages to be more serious with irreversible changes, periodontitis. It all starts when bacteria form on teeth and harden into tartar (also called calculus) above and below the gum line. This irritates vulnerable soft tissue, causing inflammation, and subsequent infection can set in. Combined with decaying food particles lodged between teeth and bacteria emitted by plaque, infection can spread quickly. Symptoms are so mild in the early phase, many patients don't recognize them: red, tender, swollen gums, bleeding when brushing teeth.
As the condition progresses, gums may recede from teeth and periodontal pockets form with bacteria present. This bacteria can destroy gum tissue and bone, leading to tooth and bone loss.
Why is Gum Disease so Serious?
Recent research reveals that gum disease is linked to increased risk for major overall health problems, including but not limited to stroke, heart disease, respiratory problems, osteoporosis, diabetes complications, low birth weight, and most recently, dementia. Because of these findings, research continues. We may learn much more in the next few years.
It makes perfect sense that gum disease is linked to overall health problems. Everything that enters or is present in the mouth has access to the whole body. The mouth is like a portal to the body and your gums can be the barometer of your body. That's why regular checkups and hygiene visits are vital to not only oral health, but also overall health.
Is Gum Disease Curable?
Unfortunately, advanced gum disease is not curable, but it is manageable. Early stages of gum disease are reversible and this is what we try to detect at your regular dental checkups. At this early stage, prevention might be as simple as changing your brushing technique, improving your flossing routine, or changing the products you use for oral care at home.
Once gum disease is diagnosed, we treat it with non-surgical therapy including:
- Scaling – to remove hardened plaque from below the gum line
- Root Planing – to reduce rough areas on teeth roots
- Antibiotic Therapy – to battle infection
Advanced cases may require the care of a periodontist, in which case we will refer you to a trusted colleague.
Expect to attend more frequent hygiene visits so that a dentist or hygienist can monitor your condition and make sure that recovery is on track.