Periodontal disease is one of the most common health issues among American adults. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, nearly 65 million people over age 30 have some degree of gum disease, whether it is mild or severe. It begins when bacteria embed in the gums, proliferating and causing inflammation. The body begins destroying its own infected tissues, potentially leading to serious complications. Treatment for gum disease is essential to prevent progression and the consequences of infection, including tooth loss.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
There are a number of factors that can contribute to the development of gum disease, although inadequate oral hygiene is most commonly responsible for gingivitis and periodontitis. Dentists recommend brushing at least twice daily and flossing once daily. It is also important to undergo twice-yearly professional cleanings to remove plaque that accumulates on teeth and along the gum line.
Other factors do not always directly cause periodontal disease, but may facilitate its development. They include having diabetes, using tobacco products, poor nutritional habits, and the use of certain medications. Some risk factors are beyond the control of patients, such as genetic predisposition, aging, and hormonal fluctuations; however, diligent preventive care can help avert gum infections and disease.
When Should a Patient Seek Treatment for Gum Disease?
Patients should seek dental treatment for gingivitis and periodontitis at the first signs of disease. The most easily recognized symptom of infection is a bleeding gum line – particularly when brushing or eating. Other symptoms include chronic bad breath, reddened or inflamed gum tissues, loose teeth, or a receding gum line. It is important to note that patients may experience some, all, or none of the symptoms of gum disease. That’s why periodic dental exams that can detect the presence of gum disease are fundamental for long term oral health.
What Types of Treatments are Available for Gum Disease?
Numerous treatments exist for periodontal disease, ranging from conservative to advanced. Gingivitis requires the least invasive treatment – usually a thorough scaling and root planing to eliminate plaque and bacteria. Moderate to advanced periodontal disease also requires thorough cleaning, though some patients may also require surgical intervention to reduce the depth of pockets that form as a result of the gums pulling away from the teeth. Patients with severe bone and gum deterioration may need surgical tissue grafting – especially to support a dental implant as a replacement for lost teeth.