Gum Disease Treatment: Protect Your Oral and Overall Health
About half of Americans have gum disease. When this infection of the gums goes untreated, it can contribute to serious issues, not just with your oral, but your overall health. Effectively treating gum disease is vital to your longevity and quality of life. That’s why Dr. Matthew P. Huff of Precision Dentistry & Implants of Kerrville, TX, offers effective gum disease treatment options.
Call us at (830) 896-8343 to learn more about gum disease and our effective treatment options, or keep reading our helpful guide below.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common and often preventable oral infection that develops from excess bacteria in your gum tissue. It typically starts with the accumulation of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth and gums.
When plaque isn’t effectively removed through proper oral hygiene practices like brushing and flossing, it can harden into a substance called tartar or calculus. As plaque and tartar build, bacteria can spread through your gum tissue and cause an infection, increasing your risk for a variety of other health issues.
Stages of Gum Disease
Periodontal disease progresses in two main stages:
Gingivitis is the earliest and mildest stage of gum disease. It’s characterized by redness, swelling, and bleeding of the gums, especially when you brush or floss. However, in this stage, many patients may not notice any symptoms. Gingivitis is usually reversible with proper dental care, including regular dental cleanings and improved oral hygiene habits.
If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress into periodontitis, a more severe form of periodontal disease. With periodontitis, the inner layer of the gum and bone starts to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets. These pockets can become infected, and as the body’s immune system responds, it can lead to the destruction of the supporting structures around the teeth. This can result in tooth mobility, tooth loss, and other complications.
Signs and Symptoms of Gum Disease
Signs and symptoms of gum disease include the following:
- Red, swollen, or inflamed gums
- Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
- Receding gums, making teeth appear longer
- Persistent bad breath (halitosis)
- Pus between the teeth and gums
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Loose or shifting teeth
- Tooth sensitivity, especially to hot or cold temperatures
- Formation of pockets or gaps between teeth and gums
- Changes in the fit of dentures or partial dentures
- Persistent metallic or sour taste in the mouth
Gum Disease and Systemic Health Issues
Untreated gum disease can have a significant impact on your health and is associated with several systemic diseases. Here, we’ll break down these potential connections and provide more detail for each systemic issue:
Research has shown a bidirectional relationship between gum disease and diabetes. People with uncontrolled diabetes are more susceptible to periodontal disease, as high blood sugar levels weaken the body’s ability to fight infections, including those in the gums.
On the other hand, gum disease can make it challenging to manage blood sugar levels. The chronic inflammation associated with gum disease may lead to insulin resistance, making it harder for the body to regulate blood sugar. This interplay can result in poorer diabetes management and potentially more severe health complications.
Studies have suggested a link between gum disease and an increased risk of stroke. The exact mechanisms behind this association are still under investigation, but the chronic inflammation and infection in the gums may contribute to inflammation in the bloodstream. This systemic inflammation can lead to the development of blood clots or the narrowing of blood vessels, increasing the risk of strokes.
Gum disease has also been associated with an elevated risk of heart disease. Inflammation plays a key role in this connection. Chronic gum inflammation can lead to the release of inflammatory markers into the bloodstream, potentially affecting the blood vessels and the heart.
Additionally, the bacteria from periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream and attach to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries, potentially contributing to the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and increasing the risk of heart attacks.
Low Birth Weight
Pregnant people with gum disease may be at a higher risk of giving birth to babies with low birth weight. The chronic inflammation associated with gum disease can produce systemic inflammation, which might lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes. Expectant mothers must maintain good oral health to reduce this risk.
Emerging research suggests a potential connection between gum disease and dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease. Chronic inflammation and harmful bacteria from gum disease may play a role in cognitive disorders. However, this area of study is still evolving, and more research is needed to establish the exact mechanisms behind this association.
Preventing Gum disease
With proper maintenance, it’s often easy to prevent periodontal disease. Dr. Huff offers these tips for stopping infection before it occurs:
- Maintain Excellent Oral Hygiene: Regular and thorough oral hygiene practices are the foundation for preventing gum disease. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and use dental floss or interdental brushes to clean between your teeth daily. Proper brushing and flossing help remove plaque and prevent its buildup, a primary cause of gum disease.
- Visit Your Dentist Regularly: Schedule regular dental check-ups and cleanings, typically every six months or as recommended by Dr. Huff. These visits allow him to detect and address early signs of gum disease before it progresses to a more severe stage.
- Quit Smoking and Tobacco Use: Smoking and tobacco use are significant risk factors for gum disease. Quitting can improve your oral health and reduce your risk of gum problems.
- Maintain a Healthy Diet: A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can support your overall health and oral health. Limit sugary and acidic foods and beverages, as they can contribute to plaque formation.
- Manage Stress: Chronic stress can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to gum disease. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, exercise, or relaxation exercises.
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking water helps rinse away food particles and bacteria that can contribute to periodontal disease. It also helps maintain saliva production, which is a natural defense against oral infections.
- Use Antiseptic Mouthwash: Rinsing with an antiseptic or antimicrobial mouthwash can help reduce the bacterial load in your mouth and complement your oral hygiene routine.
- Wear a Mouthguard: If you grind your teeth at night or play contact sports, consider wearing a mouthguard to protect your teeth and gums from injury and excessive wear.
- Check Your Medications: Some medications can affect your oral health. If you’re taking medications that cause dry mouth or have other oral side effects, discuss them with your dentist to find strategies to mitigate potential issues.
- Pregnancy and Menopause: If you are pregnant or going through menopause, pay extra attention to your oral health, as hormonal changes can affect the gums. Consult your dentist for specific recommendations.
Treatments for Gum Disease at Precision Dentistry & Implants
In cases where gum disease has already taken hold, Dr. Huff offers effective treatment options.
Scaling and Root Planing
For those suffering from mild to moderate gum disease, Dr. Huff provides root planing and scaling. Root planing and scaling is a non-surgical deep cleaning procedure used to treat periodontal disease.
During the scaling and root planing procedure, Dr. Huff meticulously removes plaque, tartar, and bacterial deposits from the tooth roots and below the gumline. The scaling and root planing process helps Dr. Huff treat gum disease by reducing inflammation and promoting gum tissue healing, preventing the progression of the infection.
Pinhole Gum Surgery
For more advanced cases of periodontal disease, Dr. Huff can perform pinhole gum surgery. Pinhole surgery, also known as the Pinhole Surgical Technique (PST), is a minimally invasive procedure for treating gum recession.
Instead of traditional gum grafting, PST involves making small pinhole-sized incisions in the gums and repositioning the gum tissue over the exposed tooth roots. This technique is less invasive, causes less discomfort, and typically results in a quicker recovery than conventional gum grafting methods.
Frequently Asked Questions
Gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease, is often reversible with proper dental care, including regular cleanings and improved oral hygiene. However, advanced stages of periodontal disease, like periodontitis, can be managed but not completely reversed.
Yes, children can develop periodontal disease, usually in the form of gingivitis. It’s essential to teach children proper oral hygiene habits and take them for regular dental check-ups to prevent and manage gum issues.
Yes, gum disease can still develop in some cases, even with diligent oral hygiene. Factors like genetics, certain medical conditions, and medications can increase the risk of gum disease. Regular dental check-ups help detect and address any issues early, even if you maintain good oral care.
Gum disease doesn’t always produce obvious symptoms. Regular dental check-ups are crucial for early detection. Dentists can use measurements and X-rays to assess gum health, even when you may not notice any discomfort or visible signs.