Why Treating Gum Disease Is So Important
No-one likes to think that they have gum disease but the fact is many Americans have it and don’t know it. What’s even more serious is the fact that untreated gum disease can lead to a variety of other health problems.
Research has shown that there is a direct link between gum disease and heart disease. As a matter of fact, the same bacteria found in gum disease makes its way through the bloodstream to the heart and puts a person at risk of heart disease and heart attack. It is extremely important to recognize the signs and symptoms of gum disease in order to prevent much larger and harmful problems.
Signs and Symptoms of Gum Disease
Gum disease may progress painlessly, producing few obvious signs, even in the late stages of the disease. Although the symptoms of periodontal disease often are subtle, the condition is not entirely without warning signs. Certain symptoms may point to some form of the disease. These symptoms of gum disease include:
- Gums that bleed during and after tooth brushing
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
- Receding Gums
- Formation of deep pockets between teeth and gums
- Loose or shifting teeth
- Changes in the way teeth fit together upon biting down, or in the fit of partial dentures
Even if you don’t notice any symptoms, you may still have some degree of gum disease. In some people, gum disease may affect only certain teeth, such as the molars. Only a dentist or a periodontist can recognize and determine the progression of gum disease.
Gum disease can be reversed in nearly all cases when proper plaque control is practiced. Proper plaque control consists of professional cleanings at least twice a year and daily brushing and flossing. Brushing eliminates plaque from the surfaces of the teeth that can be reached. Flossing removes food particles and plaque from in between the teeth and under the gum line. Antibacterial mouth rinses can reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease, according to the American Dental Association.
Other health and lifestyle changes that will decrease the risk, severity and speed of gum disease development include:
- Stop smoking. Tobacco use is a key risk factor for the development of periodontitis. Smokers are seven times more likely to get gum disease than nonsmokers, and smoking can lower the chances of success of some treatments.
- Reduce stress. Stress may make it difficult for your body’s immune system to fight off infection.
- Maintain a well-balanced diet. Proper nutrition helps your immune system fight infection. Eating foods with antioxidant properties can help your body repair damaged tissue.
- Avoid clenching and grinding your teeth. These actions may put excess force on the supporting tissues of the teeth and could increase the rate at which these tissues are destroyed.
Some treatments for gum disease are surgical. Some examples are:
- Flap surgery/pocket reduction surgery. During this procedure, the gums are lifted back and the tarter is removed. In some cases, irregular surfaces of the damaged bone are smoothed to limit areas where disease-causing bacteria can hide. The gums are then placed so that the tissue fits snugly around the tooth. This method reduces the size of the space between the gum and tooth, thereby decreasing the areas where harmful bacteria can grow and decreasing the chance of serious health problems associated with periodontal disease.
- Bone Grafts. This procedure involves using fragments of your own bone, synthetic bone, or donated bone to replace bone destroyed by gum disease. The grafts serve as a platform for the regrowth of bone, which restores stability to teeth. New technology, called tissue engineering, encourages your own body to regenerate bone and tissue at an accelerated rate.
- Soft tissue grafts. This procedure reinforces thin gums or fills in places where gums have receded. Grafted tissue, most often taken from the roof of the mouth, is stitched in place, adding tissue to the affected area.
- Guided tissue regeneration. Performed when the bone supporting your teeth has been destroyed, this procedure stimulates bone and gum tissue growth. Done in combination with flap surgery, a small piece of mesh-like fabric is inserted between the bone and gum tissue. This keeps the gum tissue from growing into the area where the bone should be, allowing the bone and connective tissue to regrow to better support the teeth.
- Bone surgery. Smooth shallow craters in the bone due to moderate and advanced bone loss. Following flap surgery, the bone around the tooth is reshaped to decrease the craters. This makes it harder for bacteria to collect and grow.
In some patients, the nonsurgical procedure of scaling and root planing is all that is needed to treat gum diseases. Surgery is needed when the tissue around the teeth is unhealthy and cannot be repaired with nonsurgical options.
If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above, then it is a good idea to come into the office for a full exam. Call our office today for an appointment at 214-547-1010.