Periodontitis is the medical term for gum disease. This common infection damages soft tissue and bone around teeth. It can even disrupt the alveolar bone without proper treatment, leading to bone loss.
Periodontitis can be quite the cause for concern when untreated. Understanding the causes, treatment options, and other factors can help your overall dental health. We here at Valley Ridge Dental Centre encourage regular dental check-ups to prevent this disease, but there are still some warning signs you can catch on your own.
Here, we dive into everything you need to know about how to recognise, prevent, and treat periodontitis.
Causes and Risks of Periodontitis
Periodontitis is characterised by inflammation. This occurs because of bacteria that cling to the tooth’s surface and the area around the tooth. Bacteria multiply and the immune system releases toxins. This results in inflammation and a build-up of plaque. The plaque is sticky and colourless. It can harden to tartar. If untreated, it can result in tooth loss. Worse still, individuals with gum diseases are at a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and other serious health conditions.
The good news is that gum disease is preventable with good dental hygiene practices.
Some other things to know about periodontitis include:
- It affects both the bone and gums, going beneath the gum line.
- Good oral hygiene helps prevent and treat gum disease, but surgery might also be necessary.
- Smoking increases the likelihood of gum disease.
- There is a suspected link between conditions like heart disease and gum disease.
Several factors increase your chances of experiencing gum disease. These include:
- Weakened immune system
- Hormonal changes like pregnancy or menopause
- Drug use (specifically drugs that reduce saliva)
Signs and Symptoms of Periodontitis
The symptoms and signs of gum disease include:
- Bright red gums
- Swollen or inflamed gums that reoccur
- Receding gums
- Extra space between teeth
- Bleeding when flossing or brushing
- Pus between gums and teeth
- Metallic taste
- Loose teeth
- Bad breath, or halitosis
Gum disease is often diagnosed during a routine dental exam. If periodontal disease is suspected, the dentist can use a periodontal probe around the teeth and under the gum line. If the teeth and gums are healthy, the probe will not go far below the gum. If it is not healthy, it will slide below the gum line. The dentist can measure the depth to determine the extent of the disease. An X-Ray can also be used to assess the health of teeth and the jawbone.
Routine dental exams should happen twice a year. However, if any of the signs outlined above are present, you should seek help sooner rather than later. A dentist can diagnose the disease and help begin treatment before it escalates.
Treatment involves cleaning bacteria to limit the destruction of tissue and bone. Bacteria must be flushed from around the teeth. There are several options for treatment that range from at-home care to dental procedures. Some of these include:
The key to dental health is always found in a healthy oral hygiene routine. This involves brushing twice a day and flossing once a day, which will prevent infection.
Other steps towards good oral hygiene include using tools like soft picks that can clean between teeth. Electric toothbrushes are great options for those with dexterity issues.
If you have contracted periodontitis, you will find yourself dealing with a long-term, chronic disease. Even with good hygiene, it can reoccur.
Cleaning and Scaling
The plaque has to be removed to ensure periodontal health and recovery. Debridement and scaling can clean below the gum line using ultrasonic devices or hand tools. Rough areas can be smoothed with root planning, which will prevent bacteria from lodging and causing gum disease. This can take multiple visits depending on the amount of plaque build-up. Cleanings should be done twice a year.
Of course, if periodontitis has escalated too much, medication is an option. Some medication choices include:
- Mouth rinse like chlorhexidine to control bacteria after surgery. It can be used as a regular mouthwash.
- Antiseptic chip is a piece of gelatin filled with chlorhexidine. It will control bacteria when placed after a root planing.
- Antibiotic microsphere containing minocycline that should be placed after root planing and scaling. It is a slow-release medication to control bacteria.
- Oral antibiotics can be taken in tablet or capsule form. It provides short-term treatment of persistent or acute periodontal infection.
- Antibiotic gel has doxycycline to shrink periodontal pockets and control bacteria. It is another slow-release treatment option.
- Enzyme suppressant to slow the enzyme response with a low dosage of doxycycline.
Signs of Advanced Periodontitis
Sometimes non-surgical treatment and hygiene are ineffective. If this is the case, surgery might be necessary. There are a couple of surgical routes to consider. These include:
- Tissue and bone grafts to regenerate gum or bone tissue. It replaces lost bone with synthetic or natural bone and promotes bone growth.
- Flap surgery removes plaque or calculus deep in pockets. The gums are pulled back and tarter removed. Then the gums will be sutured back into place. The gums eventually heal and adhere tightly to the tooth.
- Guided tissue regeneration utilises barrier membranes to promote the growth of gum and bone tissue where it is needed. The goal is to repair the effects of periodontitis. A dentist will insert a mesh-like material between bone and tissue. The gum will not be able to move into the bone space and allows the bone and connective tissue to grow.
Talk to an Expert
If you suspect you have periodontal disease, do not hesitate to reach out to Valley Ridge Dental Centre. With so many treatment options, it is possible to address this issue without surgery. However, that is only if you act fast and get ahead of the problem. Our friendly and knowledgeable team is here to help you navigate this process and find the best treatment option for you.