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Periodontal (Gum) Treatment
Many adults have some form of Periodontal disease (irritation and/or inflammation of the ligaments and bone that support the teeth), but they don’t realize it because in the beginning stages it is relatively painless. Some signs of gum disease are: bleeding gums when brushing or flossing, sores in mouth, bright red, red-purple or shiny gums, and gums that are sensitive when touched. Diagnosing the disease in its earliest stages is important.
Plaque is primarily responsible for Periodontal disease. Plaque is a sticky, colorless substance that contains bacteria. If plaque isn’t removed each day by brushing and flossing, it will build up between teeth. Over time it can harden into a rough, hard substance called tartar or calculus. Toxins produced and released by calculus irritate the gums and causes an infection to develop. This early stage of Periodontal disease is called gingivitis.
A professional cleaning is required to treat gingivitis. Without a professional cleaning the infection will spread from the gums to the ligaments and bone supporting the teeth. The fibers that hold gums tightly to teeth will deteriorate. This leads to the creation of periodontal pockets or a gum abscess (collection of bacteria, pus, and swelling in gum tissues). At this point, teeth may become loose and the gums may recede, creating abnormal spaces between teeth. Left untreated, these periodontal pockets will eventually extend deeper, moving the bacteria down until the bone that holds the tooth in place is destroyed. After a time, the tooth will fall out or require extraction.
If a patient has minimal gingivitis, the dentist or hygienist will clean the teeth to remove plaque and calculus. They may also prescribe special mouthwashes or topical treatments. Periodontal disease is more serious and may require the prescription of antibiotics. Treatment involves periodontal scaling and root planing. Periodontal scaling is a procedure in which a dentist or hygienist removes the plaque deposits from under the gum line. Plaque and calculus is also removed from the root surface of the tooth. The treatment can be performed under local anesthesia in order to make the patient more comfortable. It can often be accomplished in two to four visits depending on the size of the deposit or extent of inflammation present. Finally, more advanced cases may require surgical treatment such as removing infected gum tissue or extracting teeth.
In order to maintain the benefits of Periodontal therapy, it is critical that patients keep good oral hygiene habits. This includes brushing, flossing, and dental checkups. Patients who have Periodontal disease should visit their dentist every three to four months. Other important factors in maintaining your oral health include reducing stress and a healthy diet. High levels of stress can reduce the body’s ability to fight infection. A diet low in nutrients has a similar effect on the body.