As serious as periodontal disease can be, most adults don’t think much about the health of their gums. People tend to associate oral health with exams, routine cleanings, fillings, crowns and root canals. Even dentures, the possible end result of periodontal disease, typically generate more curiosity than the health and integrity of the gum line.
In reality, periodontal disease is one of the biggest threats to your oral health, and your health in general. It inflames the gums and weakens the structures supporting your teeth. Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss, and has been linked to systemic health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.
The Centers for Disease Control found that half of all American adults have some form of gum disease, whether mild, moderate or severe. One of the most alarming aspects of gum disease is that it often has no warning signs and doesn’t cause any pain until it has reached its advanced stages.
Dr. Charles Añonuevo is committed to helping you enjoy good oral health and overall wellness for life. Scheduling regular check-ups with him at Inspire Dentistry of the Carolinas is the best way to stay on top of your oral health and address periodontal problems early, before they seriously threaten your mouth and body.
Dr. Añonuevo is trained to spot early signs of the disease and treat it with a variety of non-surgical and surgical procedures. He can also share oral hygiene tips to help you take care of your gums and teeth at home.
Most cases of gum disease occur due to poor oral hygiene habits. Plaque and tartar not removed with brushing and flossing can build up in the mouth and infect the gum tissue.
The mildest stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. It may cause the gums to look red or swollen and bleed easily, but it usually does not cause pain. When detected in its early stages, gingivitis can be reversed with professional attention and good oral hygiene habits.
Left untreated, gingivitis progresses to periodontitis. At this stage, the plaque spreads below the gum line. The bacteria in the plaque produce toxins, which irritate the gums and stimulate the body’s inflammatory response. This destroys tissue and the bone supporting the teeth. The gums pull away from the teeth, forming pockets where bacteria like to build up. Advanced cases of periodontitis cause the bone anchoring the teeth to waste away, causing teeth to loosen and eventually fall out or require extraction.
The progression of gum disease is slow but predictable. Treated in its early stages, the process can be reversed and a healthy gum line can be restored. But when continual plaque buildup deepens gum pockets and begins to damage bone and teeth, more serious periodontal interventions will be necessary, such as flap surgery or grafts of bone or soft tissue to rebuild the bone and strengthen the root.
Recent studies indicate that gum disease may affect your overall health, not only the health of your gums and integrity of your teeth. Bacteria that thrive in gum pockets can migrate to other areas of the body, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and gastrointestinal problems. Experts believe inflammation may be to blame. It is extremely important to catch gum disease early and treat it thoroughly.
Dr. Añonuevo checks for signs of gum disease during every exam. In addition to visually assessing the mouth, he may take X-rays to get a closer look at the structures supporting the teeth. He may also chart the depths of any pockets between the gum tissue and teeth.
If Dr. Añonuevo detects gum disease, intervention depends on the stage of the infection and how far the gums, teeth and supporting tissues and bone have deteriorated.
The first line of defense is usually a professional deep cleaning known as scaling and root planing. Plaque and calculus are carefully removed below the gum line and on the tooth roots under local anesthesia. The tooth roots are smoothed to make it easier for your gums to reattach to the teeth, and to prevent plaque from accumulating again. Antibiotic medication may be placed chairside or prescribed for pharmacy pick-up in conjunction with the deep cleaning, depending on the circumstances.
Deep cleaning is needed because plaque trapped in the pockets around your teeth cannot be eliminated by regular brushing and flossing, or even with a regular dental cleaning. In general, any gum pocket deeper than 3 millimeters is a warning sign that you are developing periodontal disease and that scaling and root planing is advised.
Scaling and root planing usually requires several visits, as one or two mouth quadrants are meticulously cleaned during an appointment. You will receive a local anesthetic, and, depending on your preference, perhaps an insert that will comfortably keep your mouth open during the procedure.
If gum disease is more advanced, Dr. Añonuevo will work with a periodontist for further options. Pocket reduction may be necessary to have the gum tissue folded back and any irregular surfaces of damaged bone smoothed. Bacteria will be removed and the gum tissue is closed. Plus, bone or gum grafts may be used to stimulate the body’s ability to regenerate bone or tissue.
If your gums are red or swollen, or if they bleed easily when you brush, you should have your mouth checked by Dr. Añonuevo. Please call or email Inspire Dentistry of the Carolinas to schedule an appointment today.