Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that can result in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. Many adults in the U.S. currently have some form of the disease. The bacteria in our mouths along with mucus and other particles form a sticky, colorless plaque on teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque. Plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing can harden and form tartar that can only be removed by a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist.
The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more harmful they become. Bacteria causes inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist. This form of gum disease does not include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place.
When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to periodontitis (which means “inflammation around the tooth”). In periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces (called pockets) that become infected. The body’s immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Bacterial toxins and the body’s natural response to infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed.
How Do I Know If I Have Gum Disease?
Symptoms of gum disease include the following:
• Bad breath that won’t go away
• Red or swollen gums
• Tender or bleeding gums
• Painful chewing
• Loose teeth
• Sensitive teeth
• Receding gums or longer appearing teeth
Any of these symptoms may be a sign of gum disease and should be brought to the attention of Dr. Nuhfer during your office visit at North East Dental Arts.
How Is Gum Disease Treated?
The main goal of treatment is to control the infection. The type of treatment will vary depending on the extent of the gum disease. Dr. Nuhfer can remove plaque through a deep-cleaning method called scaling and root planing. Scaling means scraping off the tartar from above and below the gum line. Root planing gets rid of rough spots on the tooth root where the germs gather and helps remove bacteria that contribute to the disease.
If inflamation and deep pockets remain after scaling and root planing, Dr. Nuhfer may refer you to a local periodontist for advanced care. A periodontist specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease. Patients with severe levels of periodontal disease can be best managed through a partnership with Dr. Nuhfer and a periodontist.
Dr. Nuhfer recommends practicing good dental habits to all patients to prevent gingivitis and periodontitis. Good dental habits include brushing at least two times a day, flossing once a day and scheduling regular appointments with North East Dental Arts for exams and professional cleaning. Patients may also use a pre-brushing rinse to loosen plaque and/or an antiseptic mouthwash after brushing for cleaner, healthier feeling teeth and gums.
Dr. Nuhfer also encourages patients to make wise food choices to help prevent gingivitis and periodontitis. Good nutrition is vital for children whose teeth are still developing and for adults to maintain healthy gums. If you smoke or chew tobacco, the best thing you can do for yourself is to quit. Tobacco users are much more likely to develop gum disease than nonsmokers. Tobacco also reduces your ability to fight infection and delays healing.
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