Gum Disease Treatment
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is an infection of the soft tissues and bones that surround and support the teeth. It is also called the periodontal disease.
There are two types of gum disease:
- Gingivitis is gum disease that affects only the gums and soft tissue that surrounds the teeth.
- Periodontitis is more severe. It spreads below the gums to damage the tissues and bone that support the teeth, resulting in mobile (loose) teeth and tooth loss.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is caused by the growth of germs called bacteria on the teeth and gums. Bacteria are present in plaque — a clear, sticky substance that your mouth produces.
- The bacteria in plaque feed on sugars in the foods you eat and drink. This make poisons (toxins) and other chemicals. The toxins irritate your gums, causing them to swell and bleed easily when brushed.
- In time, plaque can harden into a buildup called calculus or tartar. This irritates the gums even more and causes them to pull away from your teeth.
Things that make you more likely to get gum disease include:
- Not cleaning your teeth well at home and not getting regular dental cleanings.
- Smoking or chewing tobacco. People who use tobacco are much more likely to get gum disease than those who don’t. They also have more serious gum disease that leads to tooth loss.
- Having a problem that weakens your immune system, such as a high stress level or a disease like diabetes, AIDS, or leukemia.
- Eating a diet that is low in vitamins and minerals, which can weaken your immune system, or high in sugary foods and carbohydrates, which help plaque grow.
What are the symptoms?
Healthy gums are pink and firm, fit snugly around the teeth, and do not bleed easily.
- Gums that are red, swollen, and tender.
- Gums that bleed easily during brushing or flossing.
Gingivitis usually isn’t painful, so you may not notice the symptoms and may not get the treatment you need.
In periodontitis, the symptoms are easier to see, such as:
- Gums that pull away from the teeth.
- Bad breath that won’t go away.
- Pus coming from the gums.
- A change in how your teeth fit together when you bite.
- Loose teeth.
If you think you have gum disease, see us right away. Early treatment can keep it from getting worse.
There are a variety of treatments for gum disease depending on the stage of disease, how you may have responded to earlier treatments, and your overall health.
Treatments range from nonsurgical therapies that control bacterial growth to surgery to restore supportive tissues.
Non-surgical Treatments for Gum Disease
Treatments for gum disease that don’t involve surgery include:
Professional dental cleaning. During a typical dental checkup at LivingSmile Dental, we will remove the plaque and calculus / tartar (plaque that builds up and hardens on the tooth surface and can only be removed with professional cleaning) from above and below the gum line of all teeth. If you have some signs of gum disease, we may recommend professional dental cleaning more than twice a year.
Deep scaling and root planing. This is a deep-cleaning, nonsurgical procedure, done under a local anesthetic, whereby plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line are scraped away (scaling) and rough spots on the tooth root are made smooth (planing). Smoothing the rough spots removes bacteria and provides a clean surface for the gums to reattach to the teeth. Deep scaling and root planing is done if we determine that you have plaque and calculus (hardened plaque, also called tartar) under the gums that needs to be removed.
Surgical Treatments for Gum Disease
Some treatments for gum disease are surgical. Some examples are:
Flap surgery/Pocket reduction surgery. During this procedure the gums are lifted back and the tartar is removed. In some cases, irregular surfaces of the damaged bone are smoothed to limit areas where disease-causing bacteria can hide. The gums are then placed so that the tissue fits snugly around the tooth. This method reduces the size of the space between the gum and tooth, thereby decreasing the areas where harmful bacteria can grow and decreasing the chance of serious health problems associated with periodontal disease.
Bone grafts. This procedure involves using fragments of your own bone, synthetic bone, or donated bone to replace bone destroyed by gum disease. The grafts serve as a platform for the regrowth of bone, which restores stability to teeth. New technology, called tissue engineering, encourages your own body to regenerate bone and tissue at an accelerated rate.
Soft tissue grafts. This procedure reinforces thin gums or fills in places where gums have receded. Grafted tissue, most often taken from the roof of the mouth, is stitched in place, adding tissue to the affected area.
Guided tissue regeneration. Performed when the bone supporting your teeth has been destroyed, this procedure stimulates bone and gum tissue growth. Done in combination with flap surgery, a small piece of mesh-like fabric is inserted between the bone and gum tissue. This keeps the gum tissue from growing into the area where the bone should be, allowing the bone and connective tissue to regrow to better support the teeth.
Bone surgery. Smoothes shallow craters in the bone due to moderate and advanced bone loss. Following flap surgery, the bone around the tooth is reshaped to decrease the craters. This makes it harder for bacteria to collect and grow.
In some patients, the non-surgical procedure of scaling and root planing is all that is needed to treat gum diseases.
Surgery is needed when the tissue around the teeth is unhealthy and cannot be repaired with non-surgical options.