Periodontal (gum) disease is an American epidemic: millions of people across the country are affected, and many of these victims don’t even know they have a problem. Maybe you’re one of those victims, going about your day blissfully unaware that gum disease is ruining your teeth and putting you at higher risk for heart disease all the while.
In our review of periodontal disease, we’ll go over all the symptoms and risk factors so that you know if there are reasonable enough concerns over the state of your personal oral health situation to justify investing time and money in a trip to the dentist.
The most obvious risk factor for gum disease is lack of proper oral hygiene. When your dentist tells you to brush and floss, they’re not kidding: if you don’t scrub food off your teeth, the plaque build-up will eventually harden into dental calculus (better known as tartar) in just a few days. Once tartar takes hold, it becomes so difficult to clean off that you can’t even do it without professional tools.
You’ll want to get that tartar off because if you don’t then any tartar that forms above the gum line will attract bacteria and put you at a much greater risk of developing gum disease.
Even if you really are doing everything right, don’t think that checkups at the dentist are optional. The symptoms of periodontal disease are often unnoticeable, that is they’re unnoticeable until you have a real problem. A simple checkup at the dentist is all it takes to fix issues before they develop into much worse complications.
Another obvious risk factor is smoking. Smoking irritates the soft tissues of the mouth. Constant irritations lead to inflammation, and constant inflammation can develop into some really nasty problems. Here’s a quick stat that illustrates just how much smoking contributes to gum disease: even though only 18% of the US population smokes regularly, over 55% of those with periodontal disease are current smokers.
Also, age: older people are more likely to be in a state of poor oral health. According to the CDC, 70% of people over the age of 65 suffer from some form of gum disease.
Gum Disease Symptoms
Periodontal disease burdens its victims with a wide array of symptoms, which range from the mildly uncomfortable to the truly quality-of-life changing (for the worse). These symptoms include:
- Bad breath/funky taste in the mouth
- Receding Gums
- Bleeding or inflamed gums
- Tooth decay
- Pain while eating, talking, or brushing/flossing
- Increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and pregnancy complications
Depending on the severity of gum disease, periodontists may recommend different types of gum disease treatment. In less serious cases, where the gums are not irreversible and deeply damaged by plaque and bacteria build up, cleaning by rooting and scaling or laser therapy may work. However, there are cases of periodontal disease where the bones are directly affected and tooth loss is impending, such as with severe periodontitis.
In such cases, cleaning out the bacteria may be a futile effort. Gum surgery may be necessary.
Types of Gum Surgery
There are different kinds of gum surgery, each one designed to correct the damage done by severe gum disease, but also to correct for aesthetic purposes.
Pocket Reduction Surgery: Also known as Gingival Flap Surgery, a pocket reduction is a procedure where the oral surgeon folds back the affected gums and removes the accumulated bacteria. Your San Diego periodontist then makes sure the gum tissue securely attaches to the tooth. Gum tissue grafting may or may not be used, depending on how much damage was incurred by the disease on the gum tissue.
Soft-Tissue Graft: This is the process of using soft tissue from anywhere in the mouth (usually gum tissue or tissue from the roof of the mouth) as a graft to attach to the receded gums due to pocket reduction or as a main consequence of gum disease. This is also a procedure commonly used for cosmetic purposes to give the teeth a more attractive appearance.
Bone Graft: Also often referred to as regeneration procedure, bone grafting is inserting small bone grafts and membranes to (a) replace the bone lost to gum disease, and (b) make sure the gum flap pulled back for pocket reduction grows back perfectly well and snugly around the tooth.
Crown Lengthening: With crown lengthening, your periodontist corrects the overgrowth of the gum tissues that cover the teeth. While this is known as a gum disease treatment, it is also widely used as a cosmetic procedure. It corrects the overgrowth, giving the teeth a more attractive, elongated look.
Laser Gum Surgery: Compared to the usual types of gum surgeries, laser gum surgery is a minimally invasive procedure alternative to pocket reduction. Instead of using scalpels and cutting tools to remove diseased gum tissue, the procedure uses a laser. A laser is also used to measure the depth of the gum pocket, detect and remove bacteria build-up, and detect afflicted gums. A laser can also be used to create blood clots under the gum tissue; the clots act as s sealant to keep the tissue attached to the teeth and allow it to heal safely and completely, not to mention more quickly as well.