Many of us see a dentist for a cleaning and a checkup on a regular basis. In the other spectrum, there are individuals that only see a dentist when they have a problem. Regular dental visits are important for oral health because the hygienist and dentist will identify problem areas in their initial stages. Early diagnosis of oral problems is key to successful treatment and a favorable long-term prognosis. One of the more commonly encountered problems is periodontitis or gum disease.
Periodontitis is an inflammatory reaction of the gum tissues and the bone supporting the teeth. Irritants that may cause periodontitis include but are not limited to, dental plaque, bacteria, tartar, bulky fillings with overhangs and cavities. It can also be triggered by an overactive host defense system and genetic predisposition. Most of the initiating problems can be precipitated by either poor oral hygiene, defective fillings, crowding, spacing, poor positioning of teeth in the arch and of unknown cause. Periodontal disease can manifests itself through bleeding gums, sensitive teeth, bad breath, red or swollen gums, tooth mobility.
Periodontitis can have a slow or rapid onset, and progression can be acute or chronic. It is not well understood why the disease presents itself in different forms. Some individuals that have a lot of irritants and should have a correspondingly large amount of bone loss can show little change in bone and tissue health, while others have very little initiating factors but show more significant bone loss. The observed localized bone loss is proportional to your bodies reaction to even the smallest amount of irritating factors. To properly diagnose periodontal disease, your dentist will obtain necessary radiographs, periodontal probings and other more detailed diagnostic information. Accurate periodontal probings will provide the dentist with information not only to determine if you have periodontal disease, but also the extent of the disease and the specific site of involvement.
If your dentist diagnoses periodontal disease there are few treatment options. The initial treatment consists of a scaling and root planing procedure, or deep cleaning as it is commonly known. The dentist or a dental hygienist anesthetizes a region of the mouth that will undergo the procedure. The procedure consists of thoroughly cleaning out the area below the gumline, between the tooth and the gum tissue. This not only eliminates any irritants but also stimulates the healing process by providing a smooth tooth surface for proper tissue healing. Different areas of the mouth may require scaling and or root planing. After the procedure is completed the tissue is allowed to heal. About six weeks after the procedure is completed, the area is re-evaluated to determine the extent of healing. If periodontal probings remain above 5 mm, your dentist may recommend gum surgery to remove excess gingival tissue and provide a more favorable area for you to maintain in the future.
Periodontal disease and the corresponding bone loss is usually permanent. Scaling and root planing and excellent home oral care is very important in slowing the progression or arresting the disease process. If treatment is not initiated the patient may lose their teeth and eventually end up needing dentures.