Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is the most common oral health issue among adults in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of Americans suffer from periodontal disease while half of Americans aged 30 or older have periodontitis, the more advanced form of periodontal disease.
As the leading cause of tooth loss among adults, preventative care and maintenance are significant. Periodontal disease is unfortunately incurable but can be controlled with proper at-home care in addition to routine cleanings and preventative examinations. Gums are a significant component to oral care– with poor gum health, the rest of your oral health deteriorates as well.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Our mouths are full of bacteria along with mucus and other particles that consistently form plaque on our teeth. While regular brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque, the plaque that’s left unmaintained begins to harden and form into tartar. Tartar breeds more bacteria in the gums, causing an inflammatory response. The existing, inflamed gum tissue forms small crevices for tartar to deeper penetrate and breed. This is the most common cause of gum disease. The only thing that can remove tartar is professional, regular cleanings conducted by dentists or licensed hygienists.
There are numerous other risk factors for gum disease including diabetes, hormonal changes in women, medications and conditions that cause dry mouth, certain illnesses, genetic disposition, and most prevalently, smoking. Continuing to smoke once diagnosed with gum disease can counteract successful treatment.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Gingivitis refers to the early stages of inflammation within your gums typically resulting in bleeding. When left untreated, the bacteria breeds a chronic infection within the gum collar. This quickly accelerates leading to the deterioration of your gums and ultimately teeth.
The symptoms of gum disease include:
- -Lingering bad breath that can’t be rectified
-Swollen, red gums
-Tender, bleeding gums
-Sensitive teeth in advanced stages, gum disease can lead to tooth loss.
Gum Disease Diagnosis
Ivonne Castro Family Dentistry always recommends regular cleanings and preventative examinations so that we can catch the early causes prior to diagnosing gum disease. Based on the inflammation and bleeding of your gums, our team may diagnose you with gingivitis and provide detailed at-home dental care to prevent gum disease from taking over.
During each examination, we measure the small collar of your gums around each tooth. The typical depth of gum around each tooth should be approximately two to three millimeters deep. If any of these small gum collars measure more than three millimeters and are presently bleeding, gum disease is unfortunately present. The deeper the readings measure the more advanced the gum disease is. Our team will also inquire about your medical history in order to identify other present risk factors that can contribute to gum disease.
Once the gum disease is diagnosed by gum collar measurement, we administer x-rays to conclude whether or not there is any resulted bone loss. In addition to this x-ray, Dr. Ivonne Castro will analyze if there’s any detectable movement found within each tooth.
Treatment of Gum Disease
Once our team has diagnosed a patient with gum disease, depending on the severity and individual factors of each patient, we create a hand-tailored treatment plan. In the beginning stages of gum disease, with little to no bone loss, a few professional cleanings with our dental hygienists can usually stop the acceleration of the disease. We provide you an extensive at-home routine to ensure the gum disease doesn’t worsen and lead to severe symptoms.
If your gum disease is at a more moderate stage, featuring inflammation and measurable bone loss, we recommend a more proactive approach to save the existing gum tissue and bone structure you have. This treatment process entails a localized numbing of your gums so that one of our dental hygienists can provide a more intensive cleaning process while you remain comfortable. We focus on specific sections of your mouth, scrupulously cleaning below and above your gum line. This process is completed over multiple visits to ensure your comfort and the thoroughness of each cleaning session. The mineralized tartar breeding the gum disease must be meticulously removed with our state-of-the-art ultrasonic instruments. We complete each in-depth cleaning by polishing your teeth to create a smooth surface that repels the accumulation of plaque.
Additionally, Dr. Ivonne Castro may recommend one or more different specialty oral hygiene tools to use at home including electric toothbrush, water flosser, medicated rinses, and more. Our team only recommends necessary hygiene tools based on each individual case.
The Importance of Regular Upkeep
Gum disease is incurable but dedicated, consistent upkeep can drastically slow down this deteriorating disease. Without proper at-home care and regular cleanings, gum disease accelerates and can lead to permanent damage including tooth loss. Bacteria immediately begins to repopulate after any professional cleaning or at-home brushing efforts. Any plaque that’s left unmaintained starts to harden and turn into tartar within 24 hours.
The deeper your gum pockets are, the more susceptible they are to bacteria growth in the foundation of your teeth. Once damaged by gum disease, these deep pockets are even harder to clean without professional care. Depending on the severity of your case, we may require two to four visits a year in addition to your individualized treatment plan and home dental routine. If our customized, proactive treatment plan doesn’t show the immediate deceleration of your gum disease, we will refer you to our trusted periodontist.
Oral Health: The Window to Your Overall Health
Your mouth is the gateway to your body, doctors can evaluate what’s going on inside of your body simply based on taking a swab of your saliva or looking inside your mouth. Your mouth is a helpful vantage point for detecting early signs and symptoms of systemic disease. On the flip side, poor oral health does lead to poor overall health. Studies show that long-term gum infections and disease doesn’t just lead to losing your teeth, they also contribute to cardiovascular disease, premature birth, endocarditis, and poorly controlled diabetes.
Certain health conditions can also affect your oral health, including diabetes, HIV/AIDs, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, eating disorders, head and neck cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome. Having one or more of these disorders escalates your risk for poor oral health which can, in turn, lead to further disease. These individuals require further dedication to consistent at-home maintenance, regular cleanings, and preventative exams. Call today to schedule your preventative exam!