Periodontal disease or gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Why?
This is because the initial symptoms usually go unnoticed. By the time a person notices a loose tooth or starts getting abscesses, it may be too late to save the tooth. In a healthy mouth, teeth fit snugly in their sockets and their roots are surrounded by a strong foundation of gums and their supportive tissue. Periodontal disease is a gum infection usually caused by plaque. Other factors that can contribute to gum disease are local irritants (smoking, chewing tobacco or habitually clenching the teeth), poor nutrition, certain medications and high levels of stress.
What are the signs of gum disease?
Watch for gums that bleed when brushing (even a little), red, swollen or tender gums, persistent bad breath, loose teeth, or gums that are pulling away from the teeth.
How can gum disease be prevented?
Periodontal or gum disease can be prevented by brushing well twice a day, flossing daily, eating a balanced diet and visiting your dentist regularly - ideally every six months or the interval that your dentist recommends - for a preventive checkup examination and professional hygiene treatment.
How do you treat gum disease?
Your dental team would treat gum disease by providing detailed hygiene treatment (scaling and root planing). In more advanced cases you may need periodontal surgery . Your dentist or the periodontist (specialist who treats periodontal disease) may supplement this surgery with different types of gum or bone grafts to help you keep your teeth for a lifetime.
What's the difference between my checkup and the periodontal maintenance visit?
For a person with healthy gums and teeth one or two preventive dental visits every year, or "checkups", can be enough to keep their mouth healthy. If you have periodontal disease, you may need root planning to remove diseased deposits from the roots of your teeth. You may also need surgery. After the disease process is under control a regular "cleaning" is not appropriate anymore. Instead, you will need on-going gum and bone care procedures, also known as periodontal maintenance to keep your mouth healthy. You will likely need to visit your dentist more frequently during the year - every 3 or 4 months. This allows the dental team to get into areas around your teeth that you can't reach and prevent large buildups of stone and bacterial toxins that make gum disease progress. On one of your periodontal maintenance visits during the year your dentist would complete your continuing care examination or "checkup" in addition to providing preventive hygiene care.