If you asked people to identify the most common chronic disease in America, most probably wouldn’t think to consider their oral health. But gum disease does in fact hold this title, affecting as much as 80 percent of the adult population to at least some extent. In its simplest definition, gum disease is an inflammation of gum tissue, but it can affect a lot more than just the gums if left untreated.
For patients in and around the Bismarck area, we offer a variety of periodontal services to keep gums healthy. If you suffer from any degree of gum disease, our family dentistry practice is ready to help preserve your smile and overall health.
Keeping Gums Healthy at Home
At-home hygiene is the first step toward maintaining healthy gums and curtailing the spread of disease. In its initial stage, gum disease is seen as gingivitis, where it is just restricted to gum tissue. The first symptoms of gingivitis include swollen or reddened gums, sensitive gums, and a gradually receding gum line. At this point, when disease is relatively mild, regular hygiene is often enough to reduce it.
Naturally, patients should brush their teeth two to three times per day in order to best prevent the formation and spread of disease. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush is also important, however, so that the brushing itself does not irritate and erode gum tissue. Similarly, patients should be vigilant in their flossing habits, being sure to floss along the edges of each tooth every day. If bleeding occurs during flossing, it is usually a good indication that gum disease is still present.
In-office Treatment for Gum Disease
If gum disease cannot be controlled through regular hygiene, professional periodontal treatment may be necessary to prevent its advancement. At this stage, gingivitis may spread further into gums, resulting in pockets of infection and pulling gum tissue away from teeth. Once infection reaches bone tissue, the disease progresses into periodontitis, which can ultimately result in bone loss and infected roots.
To clean out infection from gums, dentists employ a technique known as a deep cleaning. Much like a regular dental cleaning, a thin tool is used to remove plaque and bacteria, except the target area is beneath the gum line. Once infected tissue has been cleaned out, the roots of teeth are made smooth to discourage bacteria from adhering to them in the future. Antibiotics may also be administered to further reduce infection.
In some cases, pockets of infection may have migrated far enough below the gums that they are not initially reachable. In order to treat the disease at this stage, the dentist will perform a flap surgery, making small incisions in the gums to temporarily pull them back. After cleaning and treating the infected areas, the gums are then sutured back in place. Although flap surgery is more invasive than an ordinary deep cleaning, it is necessary to prevent severe infection and possible tooth loss.
Our office further enhances periodontal treatment through the use of special soft tissue lasers. With the aid of this technology, patients benefit from procedures that are less invasive yet more effective:
- Laser bacterial reduction: In a typical professional cleaning, the dentist or dental hygienist will employ a metal scaling tool to remove plaque and bacteria. However, this tool can be tough on gums, causing them to bleed and limiting its use over soft tissues. With a laser, bacteria can be targeted directly over gum tissue without incurring any significant damage to the tissue itself.
- Laser assisted periodontal therapy: A thin laser, roughly the width of three strands of hair, can be used to remove plaque from between teeth and gums. This allows patients to benefit from a deep cleaning with minimal disruption of gum tissue and with exceptional sterilization of harmful bacteria.
Come In for a Cleaning
The best way to prevent the spread of gum disease is through regular hygienic care, both at home and professionally. During a professional exam, we can help you determine the health of your gums and whether any additional treatment is necessary. If you have not yet scheduled your next cleaning and exam, contact our office to arrange a visit.