Gum disease is a serious, chronic oral health condition that can have several significant impacts on your mouth as well as the health of your whole body. The disease typically is slow in progression initially and is often unnoticeable or ignored.
When gum disease goes untreated, it only continues to grow worse. Patients might notice bad breath and some bleeding upon brushing and or flossing. This is a sign of the inflammatory process. What starts as inflammation of the gum tissue, progresses to eroding away of the bone that supports the teeth in the jaws. Eventually enough bone will be eroded causing tooth loss. Imagine that each tooth is like a castle that has a moat around it. Shallow moats or periodontal pockets, can be effectively cleaned by routine brushing, flossing and periodic dental prophylactic cleanings. Without effective cleanings, the bacteria then colonize the root surfaces of the teeth and adhere to them much like barnacles on the bottom of a boat. These bacterial colonies of calculus/tartar, produce toxins that cause the gums to detach from the tooth, making the moat or periodontal pocket deeper. The deeper the periodontal pocket, the less effectively it can be cleaned with brushing and flossing.
As the periodontal pocket deepens, the bacteria and their toxins invade and infect the gums at the bottom of the pocket causing the bone to erode away. Allowed to continue, teeth become mobile and are at high risk of being lost. Generally, this bone loss is irreversible and treatment is not focused on trying to regrow bone, but rather arrest the disease process to prevent further loss of bone and create an environment that is less inflamed. At West End Dental, we can help to put a stop to the progression of gum disease with periodontal therapy.
Periodontal therapy is a treatment for gum disease that involves a procedure known as scaling and root planing. This procedure is a deep cleaning of your teeth that involves cleaning all surfaces both above and below the gum line.
Scaling is the process of cleaning the visible surfaces of your teeth. Using scalers, we clean all surfaces of your teeth, removing plaque, calculus, bacteria, and other debris above and just below the gumline. After scaling, we move on to root planing.
With root planing, we remove plaque (the sticky substance that hasn't hardened into barnacles yet), calculus (the barnacles), bacteria, and other toxins from along the roots of your teeth further below the gumline, where the periodontal pockets have become deeper, effectively smoothing their surfaces. By smoothing surfaces, we are removing the harmful bacteria the perpetuates the inflammatory process that leads to tooth loss and facilitates other chronic inflammatory conditions elsewhere in the body.
After we have finished cleaning your teeth, an antimicrobial mouthwash might be prescribed or an antibiotic gel may be placed in the areas where the periodontal pockets were deepest. The treatment, like the disease, remains active and you are then scheduled for a follow up 6 to 8 weeks later. This visit is important for ensuring that your gums, and your oral health, are improving.
Upon completion of scaling and root planing, the cleaning standard is somewhat more rigorous than a dental prophylaxis. Periodontal maintenance is a series of regularly scheduled visits that include a dental prophylaxis, plus additional cleaning on root surface areas that deeper periodontal pockets remain. During these visits, we examine your teeth and your gums, measuring your periodontal pockets, determining the level of inflammation and taking x-rays. After your mouth is assessed, we then clean your teeth of any buildup that may have accumulated since your last visit. The frequency of periodontal maintenance visits varies based on individual need due to variance in susceptibility and virulence of the bacteria. Some patients may need to be seen as often as every 2 months, while others may only need to be seen every 6 months.
Preventing Gum Disease
While periodontal therapy can help to restore the health of your mouth, it is not a permanent solution. Gum disease can happen again. It is important to take steps to prevent it from happening again. A good oral hygiene routine is essential. You should brush your teeth twice a day and floss once daily. You should also have your teeth regularly cleaned and examined at least twice a year. All of these components will help to prevent gum disease from occurring and protect the health of your mouth. Periodontal therapy can help to put a stop to the progression of gum disease, helping your mouth to finally start healing.
For more information, and to schedule your consultation, call West End Dental today at (503) 446-2957.