1. What is Gum Disease?
Everyone knows to brush their teeth, but many people forget about their gums! Periodontal means "around the tooth". Periodontal disease, also known as "gum disease", is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease is an ongoing, slowly progressing, difficult-to-stop disease. Unless it is treated, it will continue to destroy your teeth. Plaque - the sticky colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth - is recognized as the primary cause of gum disease. If plaque isn't removed each day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into a rough, porous substance called calculus or tartar. Toxins produced and released by bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. These toxins cause the breakdown of the fibers that hold the gums tightly to the teeth, creating periodontal pockets that will fill with even more toxins and bacteria. As the disease progresses, pockets become deeper, and the bacteria move down until the bone that holds the teeth in place is destroyed. Eventually, severe infection may develop with pain and swelling. The teeth may loosen. There are other factors, too. Smokers and tobacco users are at a higher risk of developing gum disease. Research also shows that periodontal disease is related to causing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
2. Periodontal Disease and Heart Disease Connection.
The inflammatory protein and bacteria associated with gum disease enter a person's bloodstream and can cause various effects on the cardiovascular system. Research shows that the presence of the same bacteria known to cause gum disease is associated with an increased level of blood vessel wall thickening, which may eventually lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.
3. Periodontal disease and Diabetes.
Diabetics are more susceptible to the development of oral infections and gum disease. Gum disease may have the potential to affect blood sugar control and contribute to the progression of diabetes. People with diabetes who receive good dental care and have good insulin control typically have a better chance of avoiding gum disease.
4. How is "gum disease" treated?
The following information describes the various treatments for periodontal disease. They are listed from least to most aggressive:
- No Treatment. If you elect to do nothing to treat your periodontal disease, it will continue to progress slowly until you lose the involved teeth. Routine dental hygiene appointments can increase the possibility of increased tooth longevity, but more comprehensive treatment is usually indicated.
- Increased frequency of oral hygiene appointments. Although teeth cleanings are normally performed once every 6 months, patients with minimal periodontal disease can often control its progress by increasing the frequency of cleanings and exams to once every two or three months.
- Deep scaling, root planing, and soft tissue curettage (removal of inflamed tissue). In the early stages of gum disease, most treatment involves a special cleaning called scaling and root planing, which removes plaque and tartar around the tooth and smoothes the root surfaces. Antibiotics or anti-microbials may be used to supplement the effects of scaling and root planing. In most cases of early gum disease, scaling and root planing and proper daily cleaning at home will help. Removal of tartar from the deepest areas of the periodontal pockets, planing of the tooth root surfaces and removal of the diseased soft tissue by curettage, usually decreases pocket depth and slows or stops periodontal disease. Routine oral hygiene scaling, polishing, and examination are increased to once every two to three months. Systemic and local antibiotics and rinses may also be included in the therapy.
- Periodontal surgery. In more advanced cases it may be necessary to gently reflect the gums from the underlying bone to remove the hardened plaque build-up and then re-contour the damaged bone. In this procedure, root surfaces are smoothed also and gum tissue repositioned so it is easier to keep clean.
- Laser Gum Treatment: The surgery-free way to treat gum disease.
Laser periodontal Therapy is a laser-based approach to gum disease using an ND:YAG free running pulsed laser. To you, the patient, it means no cutting or stitches as well as less pain, bleeding and swelling. The Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure (LANAP) was approved as a safe and effective treatment for infected gums by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004. During the procedure, the laser light is aimed into the pockets that form around the teeth to vaporize inflamed tissue and kill bacteria. The pulsing laser can distinguish by color between healthy and diseased gums and zaps away only bacteria and infected tissue, which has a darker pigment than the surrounding healthy gum. Ultrasonic cleaners and special manual instruments are used to remove root surface tartar. Next, the laser stimulates the bone to heal and seals each pocket by "gluing" the gum back to the teeth. The laser seals the gum, creating a physical barrier to any bacteria that could re-create a gum pocket. LANAP also helps form new connective tissue and sometimes new bone.