Gum disease can have a strong negative impact on an individual’s life. If you have been diagnosed with gum disease, it is important to know how to properly care for your condition to help prevent its progression and maintain your health. Continue reading for information and tips on reducing the impact of gum disease.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is known clinically as periodontitis. It is a bacterial infection of the gum tissue that is caused by excessive amounts of bacteria beneath the gum line.
Bacteria naturally occurs in the mouth, but the bacteria content is regulated by proper home care and professional dental cleanings. When these two things are not properly maintained, the bacteria in the mouth begins to multiply and eat away at the gum, tooth, and alveolar (jaw) bone structure. Over time, pockets will begin to form between the tooth and gums; these pockets make it easier for bacteria to become trapped, and as the disease progresses, the patient will experience both gum and bone recession.
Symptoms of gum disease include:
- Bleeding gums (even when left untouched)
- Pain and inflammation in gums
- Chronic halitosis (bad breath)
- Unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Large pockets between the tooth and gum (known as periodontal pockets)
- Loose teeth
- Lost teeth
Patients with advanced gum disease are often faced with the loss of their natural teeth. This is a process that can be painful, expensive, and can have a major impact on the individual’s self-esteem as a whole. It is always best to seek professional treatment.
Gum Disease Treatment
Unfortunately, gum disease is not reversible, but it can be prevented from worsening with clinical intervention. This can drastically help reduce the impact that your gum disease has on your life.
In order to successfully treat your gum disease, your dentist or hygienist will recommend that you undergo ‘deep cleanings’ to rid the mouth of harmful bacteria both above and below the gum line. These deep cleanings are known clinically as scaling and root planings.
During your scaling and root planing, bacteria-filled plaque and tartar will be removed from the surfaces of the teeth. Your hygienist will then ensure that your mouth is numb before proceeding to remove the plaque and tartar that has accumulated below the gum line. Depending on the severity of your case, antibiotics may be placed beneath your gums to help prevent the growth of bacteria between visits.
Patients who undergo regular cleanings typically return every three to six months.
Some patients may be prescribed a clinical-strength mouthwash - containing antimicrobial agents such as chlorhexidine - to help them maintain good oral health at home.
Gum Surgery and Grafting
Gingival (gum) grafting is another method that has proven to be exponentially effective for treating gum disease and restoring gum tissue.
There are three types of grafting that are typically used to restore gum tissue:
- Free Gingival Graft: During a free gingival graft, the dentist will remove healthy tissue from the roof of the patient’s mouth and place it where it is needed to rebuild the gum line.
- Pedicle Graft: During a pedicle graft, the dentist will create an incision in the gum line next to the recession spot and extend the tissue over where it is needed. This method of grafting is ideal, but it is only an option for patients who have sufficient gum tissue in the areas surrounding the gum recession.
- Connective Tissue Graft: A connective tissue graft is similar to a free gingival graft, but it differs slightly. During a connective tissue graft, the dentist or periodontist will create an incision to open a flap in the roof of the mouth. A piece of connective tissue - located beneath the first layer of tissue - will be removed and placed where it is needed in the gumline.
The type of gingival grafting that is used will depend on the health of the tissues in your mouth and the discretion of your dentist or periodontist.
Periodontal probing and charting is an essential part of gum disease treatment. Probing is a method of measuring the depth of the space (or pocket) between the tooth and the gum.
Healthy gums cling tightly to the tooth. When gum disease forms, bacteria causes an infection in the gums, causing the gum tissue to pull away from the tooth. If proper care and treatment is not administered, bacteria will continue to accumulate in the pocket, causing even more recession to occur. The patient faces eventual tooth loss if clinical intervention is not taken.
During probing, the pocket between the gum and tooth will be measured. Healthy gum tissue will produce a measurement between 1-3mm. Pockets of 4mm or more are an indication of gum recession that will require periodontal treatment. Your dental professionals will conduct regular gum probing to ensure that there is no progression of your gum disease.
Brushing and Flossing
In addition to undergoing professional gum disease treatment, another great way to reduce the impact of your gum disease is to ensure that you are practicing proper home care.
Brushing and flossing thoroughly twice each day is the best way to maintain a healthy oral environment in between professional dental appointments.
When you brush, be sure to reach all surfaces of the teeth, taking care not to miss the molars in the back of the mouth. It is typically recommended to brush for at least two minutes - if you find it a bit tricky to ensure that you are brushing for the recommended amount of time, you can choose one of your favorite songs and listen to it while you brush, finishing up when the song ends. You can also try singing “Happy Birthday” twice to yourself in your head as you brush.
When flossing, be sure to use a waxed floss to ensure that the floss does not become snagged between the teeth. Take a section of floss and wrap both ends around your two pointer fingers. Guide the floss between the two contacts of two adjacent teeth and bring the floss up towards your gums. Move the floss back and forth to dislodge any debris that may be trapped between the teeth.
Next, wrap the floss around the base of the tooth in a “C” shape and clean the gum line. This is an essential part of the flossing process that can help eliminate debris or plaque that has accumulated in this region. Once you have finished flossing, be sure to rinse out your mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash to ensure that no debris or bacteria-laden plaque is left in the mouth.
Many people wonder if there is a significance to flossing either before or after brushing. It all comes down to an individual’s preference, but it is typically recommended to floss before you brush, as you have a greater chance of removing harmful plaque or debris that has been dislodged while brushing your teeth.
FY Smile: Your Local Double Bay Dentist
Your journey towards the beautiful smile of your dreams starts here. Our team of experts will work with you to successfully manage your gum disease treatment. With proper treatment, you can successfully reduce the impact of gum disease on your health and consequently your life as a whole.
For more information about gum disease or to make an appointment in our Double Bay dental clinic, give us a call anytime at 02 8319 5557.