When you go to the dentist, you may think only about what the doctor will do to help your teeth. But the dentist also looks over the health of your gums and may recommend specific periodontal care. At Matthews Family Dentistry, we understand how important the health of your gums is for your whole mouth. We care for both the teeth and gums of all our patients.
Periodontal refers to gum disease. Therefore, periodontal care is a treatment that cares for the gums to prevent and correct gum disease. Dentists put just as much care into helping keep the gums healthy as they do the teeth. So, your first line of protection against gum problems is keeping regular visits to your dentist for preventative dental care.
Regular cleanings remove plaque and tartar from your teeth and just below the gumline. These cleanings can protect you from gum problems. Plaque is a coating that can build on the teeth when you miss places brushing or flossing. Unfortunately, plaque can hold bacteria, and over time, the plaque will harden into tartar, which you cannot remove yourself. By scraping away the tartar, dental hygienists remove one source of bacteria that can infect the gums and cause problems.
However, even with regular care, you may still develop gum disease. If this happens, you may need a deeper cleaning to get further beneath the gum line to get bacteria out from the gums. This deeper process is known as scaling and root planing.
Not everyone needs specialized periodontal gum treatment. However, those with signs of gum disease should get this type of care before the problem worsens.
Gum disease is progressive. It often starts mild with a condition known as gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums. Symptoms of this condition are often mild enough to go ignored by many patients and include bleeding from flossing or brushing, redness, and swelling. When in this stage, treatment is simplest and involves improving dental hygiene and professional cleaning and periodontal care.
Without treatment, gingivitis can progress to the next stage, periodontitis. This condition occurs when plaque beneath the gum line harbors bacteria, which produce products that cause inflammation of the gums. To protect itself, the body responds in an undesirable manner. Gum tissue breaks down, as do the bones supporting the teeth. As the gums wear away, pockets form between the teeth and gums. These pockets allow more bacteria to become trapped, worsening the infection.
At this stage, signs and symptoms include gums pulling away from the teeth, pus in gum pockets, chronic bad breath, loose teeth, or painful chewing. Some patients may not notice these signs or have any symptoms, as they may develop slowly. Other patients have rapid development of symptoms and complications from periodontitis. Since patients experience different paths of this disease, treatment needs to happen as soon as possible and be customized to the individual. Treatment may include scaling and root planing or, if periodontal disease becomes more severe, surgery.
Getting regular dental cleanings and exams is one of the most important parts of periodontal care. Symptoms of gum disease are often so subtle that they are easy to miss or ignore. These treatments can spot the early signs of gum disease, even before you feel any symptoms. At these early stages, treatment is less invasive and more likely to stop the progress of the disease.
Periodontal care can help you to save your teeth. In the worst cases of periodontitis, the gums separate so far from the teeth that the teeth become loose and have to be extracted. This condition is irreversible, eventually requiring dental implants, bridges or dentures to replace the missing teeth. Taking care of the gums is key to avoiding tooth loss and the pain of gum disease.
Gum disease has multiple causes. While gingivitis can happen due to poor oral hygiene, other lifestyle factors can increase the risk of developing this or periodontitis. These risk factors of gum disease include:
Even people without risk factors for gum disease can still have this problem affect them when plaque grows under the gumline. Therefore, everyone needs to take steps to prevent gum disease and get good periodontal care.
To prevent gum disease, start with a quality oral hygiene regimen that includes brushing and flossing. Flossing is especially important to clean between teeth and to stimulate the gums. If flossing hurts or causes bleeding, you could already have early signs of gum disease and should schedule a dental appointment.
Daily brushing and flossing remove food that can contribute to plaque build-up. However, these steps are not the only way to prevent gum conditions from developing. You should also have twice-annual dental cleanings to get plaque and tartar removed. Plus, the dentist can examine your teeth and gums during these visits and recommend treatment if you show signs of gum disease.
If you have an increased risk of gum disease due to a health condition or lifestyle, you may want to schedule more regular appointments with your dentist to ensure that your teeth and gums stay healthy.
With good preventative measures, you can avoid gum disease and the potential for irreversible tooth loss that it brings.
Whether you show signs of gum problems or not, you should still schedule regular checkups of your teeth and gums. If you do have signs of gum disease, make an appointment as soon as possible to get periodontal care that could save your teeth. Our comprehensive dental services help our patients maintain healthy teeth and gums and correct issues that may appear. Plus, we have cosmetic services for improving smiles. Contact us at Matthews Family Dentistry to schedule your visit.