Gingivitis, Periodontitis and Treatment | Valparaiso & Merrillville
Gum disease begins with a buildup of plaque on your teeth, often caused by poor dental hygiene. Your gums become inflamed, may be painful, and are sensitive, a condition known as gingivitis. Left untreated, plaque will harden into tartar, or calculus, and your gums and jawbone will begin to recede from your teeth, creating pockets between your teeth and gums for infection to breed, a more serious condition known as periodontitis. Ultimately, without treatment, your gums and jawbone will continue to recede from your teeth, resulting in the loosening of and, eventually, loss of your teeth.
While poor dental hygiene is one of the most common causes of gum disease, risk factors for gingivitis and periodontitis can also include:
- Tobacco use
- Chronic stress and/or poor diet
- Teeth grinding
- Some medications
Also, there’s evidence that genetics play a role, as people whose family members experience gum disease may be more likely to have periodontal issues themselves.
What to Expect in Your Appointment
During your regular dental exam, your dentist will probe the spaces between your teeth and gums to check for signs of periodontal disease. In order to be considered healthy, the spaces should measure less than 3 millimeters, and bleeding should be minimal. Gum disease may be indicated in cases where the spaces between teeth and gums measure greater than 4 millimeters, or where gums are inflamed, and bleed when probed.
A periodontist will also examine your mouth for signs of receding gums, and may take x-rays to look for signs of bone loss on your jaw, a sign of more advanced periodontal disease.
Gum Disease Treatment
Each patient’s situation is unique. Depending on the health of your gums and other factors, your periodontist may recommend the following treatments:
Root Scaling and Planing
In this procedure, your periodontist will clean and remove bacteria-harboring plaque from below the gumline to reduce inflammation. He or she may also treat with antibiotics, and prescribe a special mouthwash to promote gum health.
In some moderate to advanced cases of gum disease, the gums will pull away from the teeth, creating deep pockets for bacteria to breed. During a gingivectomy, your periodontist will remove excess and diseased gum tissue, and reshape the remaining gum tissue to eliminate infection-harboring pockets.
Soft Tissue Grafts
In more advanced cases of gum disease, the soft tissue in your gums may have been damaged or destroyed by infections. If a soft tissue graft is necessary, your periodontist will graft healthy gum tissue from another part of your mouth to the affected area to encourage the regrowth of healthy gum tissue.
Pocket Elimination / Flap Surgery
When deep pockets between the gums and teeth have developed, pocket elimination, or flap surgery, as it is also known, will remove the excess tissue creating the pockets, reducing areas for infection-causing bacteria to accumulate.
In cases where gum disease is more advanced, tooth loss can result. To preserve your bite, prevent teeth from shifting, and keep your smile aesthetically pleasing, artificial teeth are created to match your existing teeth and implanted in the jaw to replace your missing teeth.
Patients who have a “gummy” smile, or appear to have short or small teeth may opt for a crown lengthening procedure, in which the periodontist will reshape the patient’s gumline to make the teeth appear longer and more proportional.