February isn’t just for Valentine’s Day; it’s also National Gum Disease Awareness Month. It is a time of raising awareness about gum disease and how it impacts your smile. Our goal this month is to explain how we diagnose and treat gum disease for a stronger, healthier smile (and body) since they are interconnected.
Diagnosing Gum Disease
To better help you, we review your medical history looking for risk factors for gum disease (like smoking specific medications causing dry mouth). We check for dental plaque, tartar buildup and bleeding gums. We also measure the “pocket depth” between your gums and teeth to assess gum health. Dental X-rays allow our periodontist to locate deeper pocket depths so we can treat and prevent periodontal tooth loss.
Treating Gum Disease
We will thoroughly clean gum pockets around your teeth to protect the surrounding bone areas from further damage. You will want to step up your daily oral hygiene routine by consistently brushing and flossing to keep plaque from building up and destroying gums. TIP: Along with regular dental or periodontal maintenance, eat a diet rich in nutrients to strengthen gum tissue. The good news is when periodontitis is in the early stages, we can apply minimally invasive treatments to restore healthy gums.
- Scaling is a common treatment allowing our periodontist to clear out harmful tartar and bacteria around your teeth and under your gums. Today’s innovative technology allows us to use special instruments like lasers and ultrasonic devices.
- Root planing smooths your tooth’s root surfaces to keep out tartar and bacterial buildup. It gets rid of the bacterial byproducts causing your gum inflammation and the delayed healing or reattachment of the gum to your tooth surfaces.
- Once the above is completed, we can prescribe topical or oral antibiotics to control any bacterial infection. These can come in the form of antibiotic mouth rinses or by placing gels with antibiotics between your teeth and gums or into the gum pockets after a thorough deep cleaning. Generally, however, oral antibiotics are needed to destroy infection-causing bacteria completely.
Surgical Gum Disease Treatments
Once a serious gum disease infection has taken hold of your mouth, surgical intervention may be necessary.
- Pocket reduction surgery, called flap surgery, involves making small incisions in your gums. It allows the gum tissue to be lifted back, showing the roots so we can provide a scaling and root planing.
- Soft tissue grafts allow us to take a tiny bit of tissue from the hard palate of your mouth (or from a donor source) so we can cover exposed roots making your smile look good again.
- To build up destroyed bone around the tooth root, we may use small bits of your bone material or synthetic or donated bone to perform a bone grafting. It keeps you from losing teeth as they anchor your tooth in place while natural bone regrows.
- Guided tissue regeneration is how we use an artificial membrane acting as a barrier. It allows only new growing tissues and bone into the area and keeps unwanted, fast-growing tissues from moving to the tooth and bone.
- We use tissue-stimulating proteins to apply a special gel to a diseased tooth root to stimulate healthy bone and tissue growth.
What You Can Do
This February, show your smile some love by taking extra care of your gums! Like anything else, preventing gum disease is best for your health. While brushing your teeth twice a day is good, brushing after meals or snacks is better if you are prone to weak gums.
To protect sensitive gums, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and replace it as soon as the bristles fray. Using an electric toothbrush is an easy, effective way to get rid of plaque and tartar. Flossing once a day is essential to thoroughly clean your mouth, followed by mouthwash to rinse away plaque. And remember, don’t skip regular cleanings and exams! Your smile will thank you!