Periodontal diseases are infections affecting your gums, jawbones and the ligaments responsible for keeping teeth in their proper positions. Based on the CDC’s report from last year, just over 47 percent of American adults suffer from some form of this condition. Gingivitis, inflammation, redness and swelling of the gums, is among the most common of these conditions. It’s also the least severe and simplest to treat. Of course, if it’s not caught early enough, it could progress through various stages to the point of becoming necrotizing periodontal disease in which the gum, bone and ligament tissues begin to die.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
Plaque begins forming on your teeth not long after brushing; this is a normal process and can easily be eliminated by brushing and flossing in most cases. If it’s not promptly removed, bacteria in this plaque invade your gums, triggering your immune system to fight back. This is where redness and swelling come into play.
Over time, plaque can harden and become tartar buildup, which then makes its way under your gum line. From there, bacteria begin to attack your gums from the inside and have the freedom to multiply, eventually causing deterioration of your jawbones and ligaments. Though gingivitis is the initial phase of gum disease, more progressive stages include early, moderate and advanced periodontitis with greater gum inflammation and bone loss in each.
While lack of oral hygiene and dental care are the most prominent factors in developing periodontal diseases, other elements could increase your risk, such as:
- Tobacco: Smoking and chewing tobacco cause more tartar to form on the teeth; at the same time, tobacco use tends to weaken the immune system, making it more difficult to fight infections.
- Medical Conditions: Certain health issues, like malnutrition, diabetes, HIV and AIDs, as well as various forms of cancer, also lead to weakened immunity, leaving you more vulnerable to gum disease. Some medications used to treat various conditions can likewise increase your risk factors for periodontitis.
- Dry Mouth: Whether a naturally occurring condition or caused by prescription antidepressants and diuretics, inadequate moisture allows bacteria in your mouth to multiply more rapidly.
- Stress: Stress also lowers your ability to fight off infections.
- Misalignment or Crowding of the Teeth: These issues make reaching all the little nooks and crannies where bacteria thrive more difficult, so you can’t get rid of germs by brushing and flossing. Braces and bridgework can also increase your likelihood of developing periodontitis.
- Genetics: Some people are simply more predisposed to gum disease than others.
If left untreated, your teeth could loosen due to the loss of supportive tissue and ultimately be lost altogether. Catching this condition early and seeking professional intervention is key to preventing tooth loss and tissue deterioration.
What Types of Periodontal Treatment are Available?
At the Washington Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, we offer a wide range of treatments for gum disease. Dr.’s Pollowitz and Brown will consult with your general dentist, or assess your dental records if we provide those services for you, to determine the course of action best suited to your needs. Your individual periodontal disease treatment plan will depend on the severity of your condition, its cause and a number of other factors, but your options could include:
- Scaling and Root Planing: This procedure involves removing pockets of infection caused by bacterial accumulation in your gums and scraping away the tartar responsible for your gum disease.
- Dental Tray Kits: We would take an impression of your mouth and teeth to create a customized tray, much like we would with an at-home whitening system. Then, you would take the kit home, fill it with prescription antibacterial medications and place it on your teeth for a specific amount of time.
- Pocket Reduction: Pockets of infection can form in varying depths, some of which would be impossible to keep clean at home. These leave your teeth and surrounding tissues more vulnerable to future damage. If this is the case, we can clear away any infection and reattach the gum tissue.
- Gum Grafting: If your gum tissue has pulled away from your teeth considerably, we may be able to remove healthy tissue from elsewhere in your mouth and transfer it to your gums, protecting your teeth from future decay and reducing the likelihood of gum infections.
- Laser Therapy: We may be able to use laser treatments instead of, or in addition to, scaling and root planing depending on your specific circumstances.
- Regeneration: If your bone tissue is deteriorated because of advanced and aggressive forms of periodontal disease, we may be able to use grafts or proteins designed specifically to promote bone growth for restoring the strength and structure of your jawbones.
We may incorporate one or more of these procedures in your periodontal disease treatment plan to eliminate infection, reverse tissue degradation and prevent recurrence. You’ll also need to follow a strict regimen of at-home preventive measures, such as frequent brushing and flossing, as well as being sure to use any oral or topical medications we provide. Doing so will help improve the condition of your teeth and surrounding tissues while keeping future infections at bay.
Stopping the progression of periodontitis isn’t a simple, one-step process. We’ll need to provide ongoing care to ensure you remain on the road to recovery. This includes follow-up visits at least twice a year, but we may need to see you on a more frequent basis. During your routine visits, we may:
- Take X-rays using intraoral cameras and digital imaging to ensure your gums, bone tissue, ligaments and teeth continue to show signs of improvement
- Carry out professional cleanings to remove plaque and bacteria
- Check for movement of your teeth due to the breakdown of tissues holding them in place
- Take regular measurements of repaired pockets around your teeth and check for any new ones possibly forming
- Check for any signs of gum inflammation
- Prescribe medications to reduce inflammation, eliminate bacteria or help with pain
If at any time we notice your healing is no longer progressing, or new issues are developing, we will adjust your gum disease treatment plan as necessary. Being proactive in your own treatment and recovery by following the instructions we give you is crucial. As a team, we can treat your gum disease and even reverse its effects. Contact us for more information on prevention and treatment of periodontitis, or schedule a consultation using the form provided on our website.
What is the relationship between your dentist and Drs. Pollowitz and Brown?
Your dentist and Drs. Pollowitz and Brown work together as a team to provide you with the best possible care. They combine their experience to formulate the best maintenance plan for you. They keep each other informed about your progress. Although we may see you periodically for maintenance therapy, you will need to see your general dentist as well. Appointments for periodontal maintenance do not replace regular dental checkups. If Drs. Pollowitz and Brown detects tooth decay during a maintenance visit, they will refer you to your general dentist for treatment. Your general dentist is primarily responsible for your overall dental health, including such dental needs as filling new or recurrent cavities or making changes in fillings, crowns or bridges.
To prevent periodontal disease, the major cause of tooth loss in adults—and keep your natural teeth for your lifetime—carefully and conscientiously follow the guidelines of the maintenance program that Dr. Pollowitz and Dr. Brown recommend. Protecting your periodontal health through preventive maintenance has great benefits for you. You will be able to chew with more comfort, and you will be able to smile and speak with greater confidence. You will be able to keep dental costs down by preventing future problems. Your commitment to maintenance therapy is your commitment to your better oral health.