Most people visualize healthy teeth as white and free of decay, but this is only part of the picture for oral health. The supporting structures of teeth, the gums and bone, are extremely important. More teeth are lost to periodontal disease than to cavities. Periodontic dental services specialize in keeping the supporting structure of teeth free of inflammation and recession, as well as treating the loosening teeth, gum and bone infections that present with periodontal disease.
Why is periodontal care necessary?
More Americans are showing signs of periodontal disease. There is a strong relationship between proper oral care and gum disease, and teeth can be lost through the chronic diseases that arise from aging.
When is periodontal care recommended?
If periodontal disease is mild, such as slight inflammation or recession of gums, a general dentist can treat the condition and train a patient to care for teeth and gums to avoid gum disease in the future.
A periodontal dentist often treats those with severe periodontal disease or persons with a medical history that precipitates gum disease, such as diabetes, heart disease or pregnancy.
What will happen on my first visit to a periodontal dentist?
At the first visit, a complete medical and dental history will be recorded. This will include any medications being taken, as well as conditions that will affect periodontal care, such as diabetes. X-rays will be taken of the teeth to determine if bone is being eroded below the gum line. The dentist will check for loosening of teeth, and use a probe to measure the depth of the spaces between the teeth. These spaces are known as periodontal pockets and can be infected.
How is periodontal disease treated?
Treating periodontal disease involves a strong partnership between the patient and the dentist. Hardened plaque is a main instigator of periodontal disease. When plaque is not properly removed from teeth, it hardens. The hardened plaque causes gums to become irritated and pull away from the necks of the teeth.
In order to retain healthy teeth, a person with periodontal disease must learn new habits of care, such as avoiding smoking and refusing a diet of refined foods and sweets that cling to the teeth. Proper brushing and flossing are essential to healthy teeth.
1. Mechanical removal of calculus
The periodontist will remove the hardened plaque through a process called scaling or root planing. This treatment also removes bacterial toxins that promote infection. Scaling is often painless, but, if deep cleaning is required, a local anesthetic is provided.
2. Surgical treatment of periodontal disease
If after three or four weeks mechanical therapy is deemed ineffective, surgical treatment is advised. A local anesthetic is usually provided, but sometimes intravenous or conscious sedation is appropriate. The surgery is done to eliminate infected pockets between teeth and encourage the gums to renew and reattach to the necks of the teeth.
Will I lose my teeth to periodontal disease?
Teeth were meant to last a lifetime. If periodontal disease is suspected, early intervention through proper oral care and the attention of a periodontal dentist is required.
Once intervention has occurred, vigilance is imperative. Training in proper brushing and flossing, as well as regular checkups and cleanings, will keep teeth in top condition for life.