Periodontal disease, also referred to as gum disease, is the most common adult dental ailment. Gum disease affects approximately 30% of the population and is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Many denture cases commence as a direct consequence of this condition. While it is not curable, it is certainly manageable. It needs a focused strategy, that is similar to how other chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes are controlled.
Gum disease can progress quietly in the early stages, with very less signs or symptoms. Many patients who have been diagnosed with this condition are taken aback by the quiet damage that is occurring in their mouths. In simpler terms, think of the gums and bones around your teeth as the foundation on which they rest. Just like a house, the foundation must be sturdy regardless of how beautiful it is. When the foundation crumbles, the rest of the structure crumbles with it too.
Regular dental exams, professional cleanings, and practicing good oral hygiene at home are critical for detecting and managing periodontitis.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Millions of bacteria, both beneficial and harmful, live in our mouths. Bacteria produce plaque, a sticky substance that clings to the teeth. Brushing and flossing are intended to remove plaque before it mineralizes and hardens into tartar. Tartar acts like a colony for more microbes, increasing their population while releasing toxins into the gums.
Gums respond to bacterial invasion with an inflammatory response directed by the immune system. A small collar of gum tissue exists around the base of each tooth, forming a tiny crevice or pocket. This warm, dim environment is ideal for deeper tartar and bacterial penetration, with their toxins oozing into the base of the collar.
Gingivitis, or bleeding gums, is caused by early inflammation. Bacteria can successfully cause chronic infection in the gum collar if left untreated and untouched. As the bacteria dig deeper into the gums, the bone around the teeth deteriorates in many cases. While the gums may be mildly tender at this point, there is usually slight discomfort as the bone decomposes.
More than 50% of the bone surrounding your teeth can vanish before you notice any signs of looseness or pain. Since the bone around the affected teeth does not regrow, this loss becomes irreversible and difficult to manage as the bacteria remains hidden deeper within the gums. In many advanced cases, unmanaged gum disease leads to abscesses and generalized tooth loss.
We rely on objective clinical data to draw up a gum disease diagnosis and grade the condition. The small gum collar that surrounds each tooth is typically two to three millimeters deep. This crevice can be easily cleaned with floss or toothpicks. Using a small measuring device, Dr. Mai or our hygiene team can measure and chart different areas. The infection is present if these measurements exceed 3 millimeters and include bleeding areas. Deeper findings show more advanced stages of the infection than shallower measurements.
Dr. Mai also takes into account the texture and shape of your gums, as well as any noticeable movement in each tooth. It is also critical to use digital x-rays to investigate the levels, shape, and density of the bone around your teeth. By combining multiple findings, a clear picture of your gum condition emerges.
We build a personalized treatment plan with you after diagnosing the severity of gum disease. Just one or two visits with our hygiene team can bring the disease under control in mild situations where there is little or no bone loss. Once you walk out of our office with a plan in place for daily home care and maintenance schedule, only minimal additional treatment might be required.
A proactive approach to stop the destruction must be strongly considered If the inflammation has progressed to the point where there is observable bone loss. During the deeper cleaning process, we often recommend mild numbing of your gums, keeping your comfort in mind. Each area above and below the gum line is meticulously cleaned, across several visits.
Using the hand and other ultrasonic equipment, the infected tooth collar or pocket, including the hardened tartar, must be thoroughly cleaned. This initial therapy is finally concluded by polishing the teeth to create glassy surfaces that repel stain and plaque accumulation.
Dr. Mai may advise you to use a medicated rinse, an electric toothbrush, a Waterpik, or other products to aid in your ongoing cleaning efforts. Remember that gum disease can be managed but not cured. To control the disease, you must be consistent with your daily efforts.
Routine home care is essential for stopping the advancement of gum disease. Bacteria repopulate and stick to the teeth within a few hours of careful cleaning. Within 24 hours of being left relatively untouched, plaque begins to harden and mineralize. Deeper gum pockets necessitate even more care to keep bacteria from digging deeper into the foundation of your teeth.
A specific maintenance schedule with us is very important since the deepest sections of your previously affected gum pockets can be difficult to access at home. We can tweak your plan to include 2, 3, or 4 visits per year based on the intensity of the disease and its response to treatment and home care.
Recent studies reveal that there are clear links between bacterial disease in your mouth and illnesses in other parts of your body. Furthermore, research indicates a link between oral bacteria and conditions such as heart disease, stroke, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain types of cancer. The link between oral and general health has never been better understood than it is now.
Bleeding gums provide a clear path into the bloodstream, making it the perfect journey for toxic oral bacteria. In fact, if bleeding gums were joined together to form a single patch, it would form a 2 x 2-inch square. Infection would have been a concern if you had an open wound this size on your skin. Bleeding, infected gums allow bacteria to enter your body like this and make colonies.
Diabetes and other auto-immune disorders impair the body’s ability to fight infection, allowing uncontrolled gum disease to progress more quickly and with greater devastation. Swelling in the mouth can also aggravate diabetes, making it more difficult to control, according to studies. This two-way relationship between the two chronic conditions highlights the significance of good oral health.