Periodontal Disease Therapy
What is periodontal disease?
Both periodontal disease and decay are caused by bacterial plaque – a sticky, almost colorless film which adheres to your teeth at and below the gum line. Plaque constantly forms on your teeth beginning within minutes after cleaning. If not carefully removed by thorough daily brushing and flossing, plaque hardens into a rough, porous substance known as calculus. This can only be removed with professional cleaning by Dr. Clanton‘s hygienists.
Periodontal disease is an inflammatory process beginning in the gums. The bacteria found in plaque produces toxins that irritate the gums, which may cause them to turn red, become swollen and bleed easily. However, periodontal disease may also be present even without the symptoms of bleeding, redness, and swelling.
Pain and discomfort are not always associated with periodontal disease. If gum irritation is prolonged, gum tissue may separate from the teeth, causing pockets (spaces) to form. If left untreated, disease may progress down the root surface of the teeth and into the underlying bone that supports the teeth. This can result in deterioration of supporting gum tissue and bone that retain teeth in place. Bone loss that occurs from this destroys support of your natural teeth and can lead to actual loss of teeth.
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Why is periodontal disease a problem?
Adults over age 35 lose more teeth to periodontal disease than from cavities. Three out of four adults are affected by some form of periodontal disease during their life. The best way to prevent both cavities and periodontal disease is again by thorough tooth brushing and flossing techniques performed daily.
Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home dental care, periodontal disease can still develop. Professional intervention by referral to a periodontal specialist (periodontist) may be necessary if treatment is beyond the scope of techniques performed by Dr. Clanton‘s hygienists.
Recently periodontal disease has been proven to be a threat to more than your teeth. Research has linked the bacteria associated with gum disease to cause an increase in risk of:
- Heart Disease
- Certain Cancers
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Diabetic Complications (control of blood sugar level)
- Premature Birth
- Low Birth Weight Babies
Factors that increase your chances of periodontal disease problems include:
- Tobacco Use
- Clenching and Grinding Teeth
- Various Medications
- Poor Nutrition
- Puberty and Pregnancy (hormone levels affecting gum health)
Periodontal Disease Therapy
Periodontal treatment is necessary when various conditions affect the health of your gums and bone that holds your teeth in place. Retaining your teeth is directly dependent on proper periodontal care and maintenance. When your gums become unhealthy, they can either recede or become swollen and red. In later stages of periodontal disease, the supporting bone of the teeth is destroyed and teeth will shift, loosen, or fall out. These changes not only affect your ability to chew and speak, but also affect the appearance of your smile.
Dr. Clanton and his team of hygienists are conservative in their approach to treating periodontal disease. A thorough dental exam with x-rays, periodontal probings, and charting is always performed first to determine a patient’s periodontal status. A non-surgical approach to treatment is followed when appropriate and referral is always made to a periodontist when the disease is in an advanced state.
Non-surgical Treatment (Deep Teeth Cleaning)
Dr. Clanton‘s hygienists generally will perform these procedures which have the objective of removing “etiologic agents” such as dental plaque and calculus (tartar) which cause gum inflammation and periodontal disease. Topical or local anesthesia can be administered if needed depending on condition of the gums and the amount of plaque and calculus present. However, many patients are able to tolerate these procedures without any anesthesia.
Non-surgical treatment consists of two basic procedures:
Debridement is usually the first step in treating periodontal disease and involves the removal of heavy plaque and calculus from your teeth. Frequently an ultrasonic scaler instrument is used – a gentle and effective way to remove the “build-up” with water and high frequency waves.
Scaling and Root Planing
Scaling and root planing is a conservative, non-invasive, and efficient method of treatment for plaque and calculus removal below the gum line.
Scaling is the initial stage of treatment that involves a “thorough cleaning” where plaque and calculus deposits below the gum line are removed using special instruments (scaling tools).
Root planing is a procedure that involves “smoothing or planing” root surfaces to help promote healing and reattachment of gum tissue where root surfaces have become embedded with bacteria, toxins, and tartar.
Antibiotics or irrigation with anti-microbial mouth rinses may be recommended to help control the growth of bacteria that create toxins causing periodontal disease. In some cases, antibiotic fibers may be placed in the periodontal pockets after scaling and root planing. Antibiotics along with antimicrobial mouth rinses are very effective at controlling infection and help encourage normal healing.
A few weeks after these procedures are completed, pocket areas around the teeth are evaluated and measured to determine if treatment has been effective. If positive results are observed (pocket depth reduced), patients may be placed on a more “frequent cleaning interval” to help maintain their periodontal health. Referral to a periodontist will follow when gum inflammation persists and depth of pockets shows no real signs of improvement (indicating active periodontal disease still present).
The benefits of scaling and root planing include helping to eliminate periodontal disease and/or provide for further, more advanced treatment if needed, protection against tooth loss, reduction of halitosis (bad breath), and improved esthetics by removal of surface stains and deposits of the teeth.