Gum disease is a common oral health problem. But to treat it successfully, you must first know how to spot the signs.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that 42.2 percent of people aged 30 or more show signs of periodontitis or gum disease. Of that percentage, the agency says 34.4 percent suffer from non-severe gum disease, while 7.8 percent have the most severe form of periodontitis. These statistics highlight how widespread periodontitis is in the country. However, before someone is included in those stats, they must first be diagnosed with periodontitis.
Fortunately, your dentist or periodontist — one who specializes in treating gum disease — possesses several tools to diagnose periodontitis and its stage. With an exact diagnosis, your dentist can tailor a treatment plan to get your gums healthy again.
What is periodontitis?
Periodontitis is a severe and ongoing infection of the gums caused when bacteria in your mouth combine with the sugars and starches in the foods to form a sticky film on the gums and teeth known as plaque. Daily brushing usually whisks away most of the plaque and bacteria. But if left on your teeth and gums for too long, plaque turns into hardened tartar, which attracts even more bacteria that can further damage your gums and bones. Only a dental professional can clean off tartar. Poor dental hygiene is the leading cause of gum disease, but it can also be linked to smoking and chronic conditions, such as diabetes and dry mouth.
Gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease, is characterized by swollen, tender, bright red gums and bleeding when brushing and flossing. Noticeable gum recession, loose teeth, and pus around the teeth all signal advanced periodontitis. Without treatment, tooth loss is possible as the infection erodes the bones. That’s why getting a diagnosis at the first signs of gum disease is so important.
How is periodontitis diagnosed?
Before a definitive periodontitis diagnosis can be made, your dentist will ask you questions about your health and conduct a series of tests. Most likely, you can expect the exam to take place in four phases:
Review your health history. Your dentist will inquire about conditions or habits affecting your gums, such as smoking, diabetes, or dry mouth.
Examine your gums. Your dentist will look closely at your gums to see if there is an excessive buildup of plaque and tartar. They will also check if the gums bleed easily.
Measure your gum pockets. Using a tiny instrument known as a probe, your dentist will measure the gap between your teeth and gums. Usually, the distance between healthy gums and teeth is between one and three millimeters. Anything larger than that could indicate significant periodontitis.
Take an X-ray. An X-ray will determine if there is any bone loss due to gum disease.
How is periodontitis treated?
With a diagnosis, your dentist will devise a therapy plan for you. Treatment ultimately depends on the stage and can be both non-surgical and surgical.
Non-surgical. Early-stage gum disease, or gingivitis, responds well to a non-surgical therapy called scaling and root planing. During treatment, the teeth and gums are thoroughly cleaned of bacteria and plaque (scaling), while the root surfaces are smoothed to prevent further plaque buildup (root planing). Your dentist may also prescribe an antibiotic to stop the spread of a bacterial infection.
Surgical. In later stages, periodontitis can be managed with surgical treatments. These include flap surgery, during which the dentist cuts into the gums to perform deep scaling and root planing. Your dentist may reshape the bone, as well, before stitching the gum tissue back into place.
Lost gum tissue or bone can be replaced with a bone or gum graft from your body or a donor. Your dentist can also create new bone by placing a membrane between the existing bone and your tooth. This allows the bone to regenerate while preventing unwanted gum tissue from growing in its place.
Whichever treatment you receive, your dentist will recommend following up with consistent oral hygiene practices such as brushing and flossing daily and keeping up with your dental checkups. Quitting tobacco is also advisable. And those are the same habits that will prevent gum disease in the first place!
Come see the gum specialists!
Schedule an appointment at Espire’s Oklahoma City, OK, location today! Our highly trained dentists can check your gums for any signs of periodontitis and start treatment immediately. Don’t live near our Oklahoma, OK, office? Find one of our other locations near you.
Oklahoma City, OK
12448 St Andrews Drive
Oklahoma City, OK 73120