Your Guide to Periodontal (Gum) Disease and Treatments

Periodontal (gum) disease is insidious. It is an infection of the gums that starts out as plaque, an opaque film on the teeth that hardens to form tartar. As tartar accumulates, it harbors bacteria that attack the soft tissue around the gums. This is the early stage of gum disease known as Gingivitis. Left untreated, Gingivitis becomes Periodontitis which ultimately destroys the tissue surrounding your teeth AND the bone that holds your teeth in place.

Except for bad breath and gums that bleed, there are very few early warning signals. The disease advances silently, often without pain, and before you know it, you are losing your teeth and you don’t know why.

Tooth loss is only the most obvious indicator of gum disease. Scientific research has discovered a link between gum disease and stroke, heart disease, diabetes – even an increased risk for pregnant women. When your gums become diseased, your entire immune system is weakened.

In the past, fear of painful dental surgery has kept people with gum disease from seeking the care they needed. Well, those days are gone forever.

Our Gum Disease Treatment Options

Scaling & Root Planing

Gingivitis is a generative disease that left untreated, will cause significant tooth and gum deterioration. Just the word gingivitis can strike panic in a patient’s mind. The reality is that the treatment is simple and performed right in your dentist’s office.

Plaque and tartar that sits on the teeth provides an environment, which allows bacteria to thrive and multiply. The bacteria cause the gums to become inflamed and bleed. The condition becomes more noticeable when you brush your teeth or sometimes when you eat. These are signs of the early stage of gingivitis.

Gingivitis is easily treated by having the hygienist scale and polish the teeth. If gingivitis is left untreated, the condition will progress and the roots will need a planing. The difference between scaling and root planing is simple. Scaling is the removal of the dental tartar from the tooth surface root planing is the process of smoothing the root surfaces and removing the infected tooth structure.

As a non-surgical procedure, scaling and planing is performed without any anesthesia, in the dentist’s office. While the procedure is usually painless, advanced stages of gingivitis may make it necessary to numb the area for complete comfort. Deep scaling and root planing is usually broken down into one section of the mouth per appointment. This allows for adequate healing time, and reduces the time for each appointment.

Osseous (Pocket Reduction) Surgery

Sometimes the effects of periodontal disease create permanent changes in the tooth and gum structure that will cause issues in the future. Enlarged gum pockets between the tooth and the gum line are common after having advanced gum disease.

Sometimes these gaps are cosmetic in nature, and affect the appearance of the gums. More commonly, the gaps put the teeth at future risk for tooth and gum disease, as they are just one more place that plaque and bacteria can collect. Pocket reduction surgery is designed to thwart the after-effects of periodontal disease and restore your mouth to a healthy state.

The goal of periodontal surgery to gain access to the tooth root and to clean the damaged areas. Once the dentist can visually see the damage, it can be removed completely. Removing the plaque and decayed gum tissue leaves a pocket between the gum and the tooth. Sometimes the gum returns to its original position, but still the pocket is present. The pocket requires more frequent cleanings as the patient is unable to get to the pockets with regular brushing and flossing.

Once the swelling from the periodontal treatment has subsided, the dentist may need to suture the gum to where the bone has resorbed. The goal is to create a space large enough so it can be reached through daily oral hygiene, but small enough that it is not a breeding ground for plaque and bacteria.

Osseous (Bone) Surgery

Osseous surgery is a procedure that reshapes the bone which holds your teeth in place. Osseous surgery is commonly used to treat periodontitis. Patients with periodontitis experience defects in the bone around their teeth and osseous surgery removes those defects.

Prior to the surgery, the patient undergoes a periodontal treatment that consists or scaling and root planing. A local anesthetic is administered to minimize the pain. Once the roots are cleaned, the dentist uses a drill and sharp dental tool to reshape the bone surrounding the teeth. Depending on the extent of the defects, the deformed bone may be removed, and the rest is shaped. Bone grafting material is used where the defects are too large to be treated with only reshaping. Once the bones are back to their original state, the gums are stitched back into place. Osseous Grafting is a routine procedure, with a high success rate.

Gum Grafting

Gingivitis and in its advanced state, periodontitis, has a profound effect on the gums. As gingivitis progresses, more and more bacteria and plaque build-up, causing the gums to stretch. The end results in large pockets that, even once they are cleaned out, remain on your gum line. These pockets cause the gums to recede, which aesthetically not pleasing to the eye. When the gums recede, an abnormal amount of tooth structure is exposed.

Gum grafting is the corrective procedure that restores the gum to its natural, healthy state. Using soft gum tissue from the roof of the mouth, the receded gums are grafted. The goal if the graft is to cover exposed tooth and root surfaces with grafted on oral tissue. This grafting encourages new tissue growth that will enable the gums to return to its original position around the teeth. The procedure is routine and entails a minimal amount of downtime and discomfort.

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