Gum disease, also referred to as periodontal disease, is caused when the tissue and bones surrounding the teeth become swollen and infected. The two stages of gum disease are known as gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease in which the gums become swollen, red, and bleed easily during routine brushing and flossing. If treatment is not given, symptoms eventually worsen and turn into periodontitis, which causes the gums to pull away from the teeth. As a result, bacteria begins to form inside deep pockets around the teeth, which in turn causes damage to bones supporting the teeth. If left untreated, teeth eventually become loose, fall out, or need to be pulled out by a dentist.
Healthy gums are pink and firm in appearance; however, when periodontal disease is present, there will be symptoms such as: swollen, red gums that can become tender; bleeding gums during routine brushing and flossing; gums that begin to pull away from the teeth; a change in the alignment of your teeth; or loose teeth that may even fall out.
Gum disease is caused by the bacteria found in plaque, which causes irritation, and eventually infection, to the delicate gum tissues. Excellent dental care and routine exams are most beneficial in the removal of plaque; when plaque is left it will eventually turn into tartar and cause damage to the bones below the gum line. Gum disease is more commonly found in those who do not practice a good dental routine, smoke or chew tobacco, have a family history of periodontal disease, have immunity problems with diseases such as leukemia or diabetes, or with a poor diet.
Gum disease treatment can be broken down into two categories: Non-surgical and surgical gum disease treatment. Non-surgical gum disease treatment includes regular dental cleaning in which a dental professional removes damaging plaque and tartar build up above and below the gum line. If needed, your dentist can perform a deep-cleaning procedure known as scaling in which plaque and tartar are scraped away, followed by root planing, which basically smoothes the rough spots of the tooth root. This procedure is done while under local anesthesia.
When tissue is unable to be treated with scaling and root planing, your dentist will discuss various surgery options that are available to you. Surgical gum disease treatment can include flap surgery or pocket reduction surgery, in which tartar is removed by gently lifting the gums; the goal of this surgery is to have the gum tissue replaced closely around the tooth, therefore reducing the space in between the tooth and gum. This procedure helps to prevent areas where bacteria can harbor and grow.
When the bone has become eroded by gum disease, your dentist can perform a bone graft treatment in which fragment of bone are used to replace the damaged bone. The graft will allow new bone growth, which encourages tooth stability. Tissue engineering is a wonderful new technique allowing your body to regenerate tissue and bone at a much quicker rate. Guided tissue regeneration is a treatment combined with flap surgery, which stimulates the healthy growth of gum tissue and bone. A piece of mesh material is placed between the bone and gum tissue keeping them separated and enabling them to grow and support the teeth. Soft tissue grafts are another gum disease treatment in which tissue is added to strengthen thin or receding gums.
Of course prevention is the best treatment of gum disease. Being diligent in brushing, cleaning and seeing a dentist on a regular basis will help ensure you have healthy teeth, gums and mouth.
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