Periodontal disease occurs when the gum and bone that surround and support the teeth suffer from infection and inflammation. It starts with a condition called gingivitis in which the gums become swollen, red, and can bleed, especially when you brush and floss.
If untreated, gingivitis can progress to a more serious condition called periodontitis. Here, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving deep pockets where bacteria can reside, and you can lose supportive bone, meaning your teeth can become loose or even fall out. Periodontal disease is one of the biggest threats to dental health.
A 2012 CDC report indicates that, in the US, 47.2% of adults 30 and older have some form of periodontal disease. The prevalence of the disease increases with age — 70.1% of adults 65 and older have it.
At the office of Dr. Raul G. Molina, we do everything we can to help you care for your teeth, including offering periodontal maintenance to help you avoid this potentially serious and painful condition. We also offer state-of-the-art laser treatment for those whose gums have become infected and whose teeth are in danger. Here’s what you need to know.
Symptoms and effects of gum disease
Periodontal disease most often results from a combination of decay-causing bacteria and dental plaque. Symptoms include:
- Swollen and/or bleeding gums
- Gum recession
- Pain while chewing
- Sensitive teeth
- Loose teeth
- Bite changes
- Persistent bad breath
Left untreated, gum disease not only impacts your oral health, but it’s also linked to increased risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory disease, as the bacteria can infiltrate your bloodstream and spread throughout your body.
Treatments for gum disease
When bacteria are allowed to remain on the teeth, they form a sticky film known as plaque. The plaque eventually hardens, becoming tartar (calculus). When tartar spreads to below the gum line, the teeth become harder to clean, and only an in-office professional cleaning can relieve the problem and prevent the development of periodontal disease..
The first phase of treatment focuses on controlling the infection and restoring the levels of healthy bacteria to your mouth. Your dentist will review the importance of brushing and flossing with you, as well as coming in for regular dental cleanings, and they’ll encourage you to stop smoking (if you do), eat a healthy diet, and drink plenty of water to wash away food particles and bacteria.
They’ll also perform a procedure called “scaling and root planing,” which is a deep cleaning to remove plaque and tartar. In addition, they may prescribe antibiotics to clear up any infection.
The second phase of treatment, if the first is unsuccessful, has traditionally been a surgical one. One type is gum flap surgery. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), the surgeon cuts into the gum tissue, which creates a flap that’s pulled back, allowing for a deep cleaning around the tooth roots and removal of deep gum pockets. The tissue is then sutured and allowed to heal.
Now, however, the dental laser has moved front and center. As it evaporates the diseased tissue from around the tooth root and within any gum pockets, it gently disinfects the area as it goes. This removes the disease-causing bacteria, giving the gum pockets and the bone tissue the opportunity to heal.
Repeated visits, generally between two and eight sessions, allow the gum pocket to remain disease-free, and this can permit the tissue to reattach itself at a normal or near-normal depth. Some form of surgery may be required for advanced cases; however, laser therapy is a more conservative and effective option for early-to-moderate periodontal disease.
Added benefits of laser therapy for gum disease
According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), laser therapy for gum disease presents a number of benefits over surgery:
- Requires no general anesthetic
- Targets the diseased areas precisely and accurately
- Less invasive
- Bleeding, pain, and swelling are limited
- Recovery and healing times are shorter
Once you’ve finished treatment, you’ll move on to a maintenance phase of good oral hygiene and regular three-month (instead of six months) dental visits to ensure your gums and teeth remain healthy.
If you’re struggling with irritated or bleeding gums, it’s time to make an appointment with Dr. Molina for treatment, so you don’t end up losing teeth and bone. Give the office a call at (305) 614-0211, or schedule online today.