Keeping a smile healthy involves caring for more than just the teeth. The gums contribute to your oral health, as well as your overall health. Studies have connected many systemic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes to periodontal disease – also known as gum disease.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is an inflammation of the gums. This disease is caused by plaque that leads to the formation of biofilm on your teeth as a result of the foods and beverages you consume. These biofilms form when disease-causing bacteria stick to surfaces in your mouth and excrete a sticky substance that clings to your teeth and gums. Fortunately, removing the plaque from your mouth daily can be done with through routine brushing and flossing.
Plaque that isn’t removed turns into tartar, and tartar accumulation above the gum line can cause gums to swell and bleed. Over time, tartar can destroy the structures that support your teeth in your jawbone and lead to tooth loss. Only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar.
Diagnosing Periodontal Disease
The key to treating periodontal disease is identifying it before it causes irreversible damage. This is one reason why maintaining routine dental checkups and professional teeth cleaning appointments are important.
Prior to having your teeth cleaned, our dental hygienists measure the depths of the space between the gums and each of the teeth. We call this pocket depth, and depth increases when gum disease is present. We measure and monitor these depths over time to help determine jawbone and tissue health.
Treatment for Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease cannot be cured, but it can be effectively managed through proper treatment. Once you have been diagnosed with periodontal disease, we will create a treatment plan that best meets your individual needs.
Periodontal maintenance for some patients means more frequent teeth cleanings. In other cases, scaling and root planing may be recommended. This is a deep cleaning of the area beneath the gum line. We start by removing all plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line to the bottom of the pocket. Then we proceed to root planing, where we smooth the teeth roots to promote gum reattachment.
We also offer Arestin treatment. This is an antibiotic that we place in the pockets to kill harmful bacteria.
Education is a key component of combatting periodontal disease, and our dental hygienists spend a lot of time educating patients about periodontal disease and how it relates to bad breath. Our dental hygienists Mary and Valerie are each other’s hygienist, and they have extensive experience with hygiene care.
Keeping Your Gums Healthy Between Appointments
- Limit the number of times each day that you have sugar.
- Use a little extra fluoride every night when brushing your to keep the surface of your teeth harder.
- Floss daily to keep the plaque from becoming tartar between your teeth. A water flosser is a great “power wash” for your mouth. Watch this video to see its efficacy.
- Use an electric or sonic toothbrush for better cleaning power. They clean better between teeth, and they help you take better care of your gums. Although they cost more than manual toothbrushes, they likely will save you hundreds of dollars by helping keep disease and decay at bay.
- Change your brush about every two months, even if the bristles don’t look worn out. We see under the microscope that brushes don’t remove plaque or germs as well when they are worn.