Addressing Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)
With many diseases the person has no idea anything is going on until he or she receives a surprising symptom or something shows up on an x-ray or during a routine physical exam.
Gum disease isn’t like that.
Gum disease shows you plenty of signs that your gums are irritated and headed for trouble. That’s a good thing because early stages of gum disease are manageable for most of its progression. Once bone loss progresses, teeth become loose and may even fall out. That’s where Dr. Hirst, Dr. Jensen, and our whole Broadway Family Dentistry team come in. When we see early signs of problems, we can show you what’s happening, help stop the progression with non-surgical methods and through use of our Perio Protect treatment system, and keep your gum disease from moving on to tooth and bone loss.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is the clinical term for gum disease. It develops in stages. You don’t have healthy gums one day and the next you wake up with gum disease. Problems usually originate with poor home hygiene and a lack of regular professional cleanings and exams. If you don’t keep your teeth and gums clean plaque builds up. Plaque is the sticky film on your teeth that is continually forming. You brush and floss and remove it, and new plaque immediately begins to form. That’s why home hygiene needs to be consistent. If it isn’t removed, plaque builds up on your teeth, moves under your gums and hardens into calculus or tarter. This causes them to become inflamed. You’ve heard the term for this on TV commercials — gingivitis. Gingivitis is an infection of your gums. Signs of this are the gums looking red and bleeding easily.
At this point, everything is reversible — you can step up your home hygiene and come see us at Broadway Family Dentistry and all can improve. If not removed, the calculus or tarter contain bacteria that release toxins around the bone and gums. The toxins cause the bone and connective tissue to degrade around the tooth and a bigger space is left behind. This is often referred to as a pocket. As bacteria build up in these pockets, it starts to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold your teeth in place. Pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Your teeth begin to loosen and fall out. The end of gum disease is a mouth without any teeth. Sadly, without bone support, dentures are not as well tolerated and implants are not always even possible.
What Are the Signs That I Have Gum Disease?
As mentioned above, gum disease isn’t an overnight sensation. It takes its time and gives plenty of warning signs. These are symptoms of different degrees/stages of gum disease:
- Gums that bleed when brushing your teeth
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Persistent bad breath
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Receding gums
- Deep pockets between the teeth and the gums
- Loose or shifting teeth
- Changes in bite
How Do Dr. Hirst and Dr. Jensen Diagnose Gum Disease?
When you come see us for your exams, we can spot early signs of gum disease. Bad breath, swollen and red gums that bleed easily are indicators of infection.
We measure the space between the gum and tooth attachment (probing depth). Larger numbers (>3mm) indicate something may be wrong.
We use dental x-rays to evaluate for bone loss between teeth.
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Can Periodontal Disease Contribute to Problems Beyond the Mouth?
Originally the thinking was that gum disease was just an oral health matter, but recent research continues to show links between the inflammation caused by gum disease and other quite serious health problems. This happens when bacterial clumps, known as biofilms, break from their cluster and have a “seeding” effect elsewhere in the body. Gum disease has now been linked to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s disease, colorectal cancer, and premature births or low birth weights. These studies are showing that the inflammation present in gum disease is critical in the development of other diseases.
How is Gum Disease Treated?
The treatment path pursued by Dr. Hirst or Dr. Jensen depends on how far along your gum disease has progressed. In every case, the first step is to stop things where they are and keep the gum disease from progressing. First, the infection needs to be removed and the tooth roots prepared to begin the process of getting the gums to reattach. To aid in this phase, w can use our Perio Protect system, and we’ll discuss that in a bit.
Treatments can be both surgical and non-surgical. We perform non-surgical treatment at our office, but can enlist the services of a periodontist for advanced cases.
Treatments can involve:
- Root scaling and planing — This is basically removing plaque and calculus from below the gumline. Done under local anesthesia, we use ultrasonic instrumentation to remove diseased tissue and debris to help gums to create a new attachment.
- Flap surgery/pocket reduction surgery — In this procedure, the gums are lifted back and tartar is removed. The gum tissue is replaced to a point that is cleansable and maintainable for you.
- Bone grafts — Bone grafts are used on areas of the jawbone that have deteriorated. The grafts are placed and bone mass regrows, stabilizing the teeth.
- Soft tissue grafts — Tissue is usually taken from the roof of the mouth and stitched onto areas where the gums have receded or thinned.
- Bone surgery — In moderate to advanced jawbone loss, surgery is done to decrease craters that have formed.
What is Perio Protect?
Perio Protect is a tool we use at Broadway Family Dentistry when treating gum disease. Perio Protect is a complement to the treatment we perform to help manage your gum disease. Perio Protect uses trays to deliver medication below the gums to help fight the infection that has invaded them.
Perio Protect uses special custom-made Perio Trays. These look similar to mouth guards, but they have a proprietary sealing system that enables the delivery of medication below the gums. You fill the tray with the Perio Protect medication and wear it for 10-15 minutes at a time at home.
Who is an Ideal Candidate for Perio Protect?
Perio Protect is best for patients whose gum disease hasn’t progressed to the advanced stages. If addressed earlier, we’ve found that Perio Protect may preclude the need for gum surgery. Even with more advanced cases, Perio Protect can be used as a follow-up to surgery to help prevent further bone loss. Perio Protect basically extends the care you receive in our offices to your home.
How Does Perio Protect Work?
It’s really a simple process. When you’re in our Minot office, we make impressions of your teeth and we send these to a Perio Protect lab to create custom trays that fit your teeth perfectly. These trays are designed to gently deliver medication below the gumline. The trays are patented and completely non-invasive.
When your custom trays arrive at our offices, you return and we check the fit. Then we provide you with the Perio Protect medication that you fill the trays with at home. When you wear the trays Perio Protect delivers medication deep into periodontal pockets, where toothbrushes, rinses, and floss cannot reach. Perio Protect simply extends the infection fighting care you received in our offices.
What Are the Benefits of Perio Protect?
Killing the bacteria that caused the infection that has taken hold in your gums is crucial not just for your oral health but also for your overall health. Perio Protect…
- Can lessen the need for gum surgery
- Can be used after surgery to improve outcomes
- Can help ensure bacterial infection is stopped
- Will help to prevent infection from recurring
- Whitens teeth as a side effect
- Improves breath by killing bacteria
- Is comfortable and easy to use at home
- Is completely non-invasive
- Is the only periodontal medicine delivery mechanism with FDA clearance
Does My Dental Insurance Cover Perio Protect?
Dental insurance plans and their corresponding benefits vary widely. We are happy to help you look into your benefits at your next visit.