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Gum Disease


Gum disease - the leading cause of tooth loss

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is very sneaky. The early signs of problems are so hard to detect that four out of five people are thought to be unaware they have the condition. This is alarming because gum disease is twice as likely to cost a person his or her tooth or teeth as tooth decay.

Tooth loss and the pain of infection are only part of the concern surrounding gum disease. This condition is also being consistently evaluated for links to serious health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, bacterial pneumonia, stroke, and increased pregnancy risks. Research is ongoing to determine the role that periodontal disease, with its chronic inflammation, plays in the development and management of these other conditions.

The importance of preventive care cannot be overstated. Periodontal disease is not curable. Once you have it, you can only manage it throughout your lifetime. If not properly treated, periodontal disease eventually destroys the underlying bone structure that stabilizes teeth. Dr. Wright works with patients on an individual basis to manage gum disease through advanced care, a healthy diet, and good oral hygiene practices.

What leads to periodontal disease?

The chronic inflammatory condition of periodontal disease affects the soft tissues that surround teeth. The onset of inflammation begins with plaque, a white/yellow substance that sticks to the teeth. Plaque contains saliva, food debris, and bacteria. When we brush our teeth, the goal is to remove this substance, and the bacteria that reside within it. Failure to remove plaque allows the substance to harden into calculus, or tartar. Tartar is the old plaque colony.

Both plaque and tartar house legions of bacteria, living organisms that, like any living organism, eats and excretes. The waste excreted by oral bacteria is toxic to oral tissues. The colonization of bacteria produces inflammation and infection that causes the gums to swell, bleed, and pull away from the teeth. As gums pull away, bacteria move into the pockets (periodontal pockets), where infection is more difficult to treat.

Signs of concern

Because the early detection of periodontal disease is vital to proper management, it is important to maintain regular dental visits. Through skilled eyes and using microscopic surgical loupes, Dr. Wright can diagnose periodontal disease quickly, leading to prompt treatment and a personalized management plan.

If it has been some time since you have seen a dentist, or if you notice any of the following symptoms, we encourage you to contact Four Seasons Dental Spa for your appointment right away:
  • Swelling or redness in gum tissue
  • Tenderness or sensitivity
  • Bleeding gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Teeth seem loose, or bite feels different
  • Gums have receded, or teeth seem longer
  • Pus is present at the gum line

Diagnosis and treatment

During routine examinations, Dr. Wright uses a small instrument to measure any existing pockets between the teeth and gum tissue. The depth of the pockets should measure no more than three millimeters, and gums should not bleed upon examination. The depth of periodontal pockets is indicative of the severity of infection, and helps us determine the right course of action.

When periodontal disease is detected, our skilled hygienist will perform deep cleaning, which is called scaling and root planing, or S & RP. This process may be performed with local anesthetic for improved comfort. We also use strong topical anesthetic and have had great results with no shots. The intent of root scaling is to remove harmful microorganisms from the area at and beneath the gumline. Using specialized instruments, sometimes with ultrasonic technology, our hygienist will eliminate bacteria-harboring plaque and tartar, and may irrigate the pockets with an antimicrobial agent. Scaling and root planing is the process of smoothing the root surface of a tooth that has become indented with bacteria and debris. Smoothing the surface allows gum tissue the opportunity to heal and reconnect with the tooth. Depending on the severity of infection, topical medication may also be administered into periodontal pockets for optimal healing.

Gum health is regularly assessed at routine dental visits to ensure pockets remain at an appropriate measurement. Should periodontal pockets remain at a concerning level, your dentist will discuss options for further treatment. Advanced treatments may include laser therapy, localized antibiotics, pocket reduction surgery, or even tooth replacement with dental implants. Ideally, we can work together to help you avoid the dangers of advanced periodontal disease through preventive treatment and ongoing management.

Four Seasons Dental Spa has the comprehensive service menu to help you keep your smile looking and feeling its best. Contact us for your visit with Dr. Jim Wright.

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