Gum disease is a common dental problem that affects over 50 million Americans on a daily basis. The field of Periodontics or Periodontology in dentistry involves the care and maintenance of the gums and other supporting structures of the teeth. These critical, supporting structures around the teeth make up the Periodontium which includes the periodontal ligaments, cementum, alveolar bone, and the gums.
The Periodontium is the tissue that is tasked with supporting and protecting the teeth. It is comprised of four major constituents:
- Alveolar Bone & Alveolar Process: Portion of the jawbone that houses the sockets for teeth. The removal of permanent teeth can erode this layer down significantly, but dental implants can help prevent the loss of alveolar bone.
- Cementum: The calcified, outermost layer of the root that is attached to both the gingiva and alveolar bone. This layer of the tooth acts to protect the Gum recession and deep periodontal pockets expose this layer to plaque and tartar which must be removed with a deep cleaning.
- Gingiva (Gums): In the Periodontium, the gums are a soft tissue that consist of mucosal layers and rest between the cementum layer and the alveolar bone. These tissues are attached to the cementum via gingival fibers and house the alveolar bone. With age and the build up of plaque and tartar on the enamel layer, the gingiva recede, exposing the cementum of the tooth.
- Periodontal Ligament (PDL): Attaches the alveolar bone to the cementum layer of the tooth.
Untreated gum disease can lead to costly and potentially life threatening issues with your oral health that can cause severe pain, tooth loss, and even heart disease. It is crucial to have your teeth cleaned every 6 months or less to help to prevent the growth of plaque and tartar on your teeth and in the periodontal pocket.
Periodontal Diseases & Risk Factors
- Gingivitis: Initial form of periodontal disease. Gingivitis is characterized by red, swollen gums that bleed easily, but it may not be accompanied by any pain. Smoking, Diabetes, aging, stress, malnutrition, pregnancy, substance abuse, and HIV can put you at risk for Gingivitis. Avoiding your 6 month dental evaluation & cleaning can increase the risk that you may suffer from Gingivitis or Periodontitis. Be sure to visit your dentist at least twice a year!
- Periodontitis: Advanced Periodontal disease. Chronic inflammation of the gums triggers a strong immune response that destroyed gum and alveolar bone tissue in the process. This loss of tissue and bone eventually leads to the loosening of teeth which may then need to be extracted. In most cases, periodontitis is caused by excess plaque buildup on teeth.
Types of Periodontitis
There are many types of advanced periodontal disease, and the cause, damage they inflict, and treatment are different for each.
- Chronic Periodontitis: The most common form of periodontitis. This type is characterized by consistent inflammation of the gums, formation of deeper periodontal pockets, and gum recession. It can occur in individuals of any age, but is more common the older you are.
- Aggressive Periodontitis: Rapid loss of attachment of the gums and quickly disappearing alveolar bone structure. This type usually occurs in individuals that are generally healthy.
- Necrotizing periodontal disease: A necrotic dental infection that is characterized by the destruction of periodontal ligaments, alveolar bone, and gum tissue. This type of infection is most commonly observed in those with compromised immune systems such as individuals who have HIV, malnutrition, or are undergoing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or local radiation.
Effects of Gum Disease on Your Health
Flossing daily and developing proper oral hygiene habits are important to your health as a whole. Gum disease affects much more than just the mouth. It can affect many different parts of your body and your livelihood as a whole.
Periodontal diseases have been discovered to directly contribute to the occurrence of:
- Cardiovascular Disease & Stroke
- Premature Birth
- Respiratory Disease
- Scaling and root planing: Deep cleaning treatment can yield effective results as the bacteria lining the gums is scraped off of the surface of teeth in the periodontal pocket. This treatment is often followed up with the insertion of small volumes of antibiotic being placed in the periodontal pockets to discourage the return of bacterial growth.
- Debridement: This form of treatment involves the removal of excess plaque and tartar from teeth and gums. Ultrasonic tools can be used to break down the calcified plaque, making it much easier to remove.
- Gum Grafting: Gum tissue is rearranged to cover and discourage the recession of gum tissue. 3 types of grafts are commonly utilized depending on the severity:
- Free Gingival Grafts: Gum tissue is removed from the top of the mouth and used to cover the affected area of the gums.
- Connective-Tissue Grafts: As opposed to Gingival Grafts, connective tissue is removed from a flap that is cut in the roof of the mouth and is stitched to the affected area. The surface layer of the roof of the mouth is then stitched up.
- Pedicle Grafts: A flap is created from the gum tissue adjacent to the affected area and then used to cover the recession of the gum line.
Periodontal Treatment at Carson & Carson, DDS
Periodontics can provide an affordable way to restore healthy function to your gums. Early periodontal treatment can help prevent the loss of teeth, improve your overall gum health, and even reduce your risk of running into cardiovascular issues such as heart attack and stroke. But, the best way to ensure that your gums are healthy are to maintain good oral hygiene habits with daily flossing, twice daily brushing, and using antiseptic mouthwash 1-2 times a day. When daily hygiene is not enough to stem the inflammation and recession of gums, then it is time to see a dentist. Get help with your gums today from dentists with decades of experience at Carson & Carson, DDS. We accept many forms of dental insurance and offer 24/7 emergency dental treatment for our patients in need.