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What is periodontal disease, and why are prevention and treatment important?

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums and the supporting bone that progresses gradually. The build-up of plaque on and around the teeth calcifies into tartar. This tartar is covered with plaque that contains micro-organisms that release toxins, causing the first stage of gum disease known as gingivitis. Many Americans experience some form of periodontal disease at some point in their life. Though not uncommon, if left untreated, it can become a serious problem.

In fact, according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fact Sheet, periodontal disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. AnotherNIH publication notes that “In some studies, researchers have observed that people with gum disease (when compared to people without gum disease) were more likely to develop heart disease or have difficulty controlling blood sugar.” A 2018 Harvard Medical School article reports that “To date, there’s no proof that treating gum disease will prevent cardiovascular disease or its complications. But the connection is compelling enough that dentists (and many doctors) say it’s yet another reason to be vigilant about preventing gum disease in the first place.”

What are the risk factors for periodontal disease?

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • AIDS
  • Use of medications that inhibit saliva production

Inflammation with redness and swelling. First signs of gum disease

What are the signs of early-stage periodontal disease?

Gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease, is characterized by swelling, inflammation, and bleeding of the gums.  Bad breath that won’t go away can also indicate periodontal disease.

What happens if periodontal disease goes untreated?

Without treatment, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis, an advanced stage of gum disease. In this stage, the toxins cause deterioration of bone. In the absence of full bone support, the teeth begin to move and eventually, with more bone loss, tooth loss can occur.

Healthy Gums – No redness or swelling present

What can I do to prevent gum disease?

Gum disease is best prevented by early detection and proper dental hygiene:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day helps to remove the thin layer of bacteria that release dangerous toxins into your mouth.
  • Flossing or other between-the-teeth cleaning is also important to keep your mouth free from food and bacteria.
  • Using a prescription or over-the-counter mouth rinse considerably reduces the microbial count in your saliva.
  • Adopting a balanced diet, rich in healthy foods and low in sugary or starchy foods, helps maintain gum health.
  • Scheduling regular dental cleanings and check-ups helps stem the advance of gum disease, preserving your oral health and preventing more serious consequences such as tooth loss.

It is critical to have your periodic periodontal maintenance appointments scheduled every 3 or 4 months to ensure the disease is not progressing.

What are the treatments for periodontal disease?

There are specific treatments designed to alleviate the effects of gum disease. Continue reading more…

When would I need surgery ?

Flap surgery

If inflammation and deep pockets remain after deep cleaning and administration of medications, flap surgery may be necessary. This procedure removes tartar deposits in deep pockets or reduces the periodontal pocket to facilitate keeping the area clean. It involves lifting back the gums and removing the tartar. The gums are then stitched back in place to maintain a snug fit of the tissue around the tooth.

Bone grafts

Dental bone grafting procedures are done to restore your bone to its previous form following tooth loss, gum disease or trauma. Restoring and maintaining facial bone structure is important for several reasons. Many dental procedures, such as dental implant placement and tooth extraction, require that the bone be as close to its original dimension and position as possible for optimal results. Also, the jaw and other facial bones support the skin and muscle that are responsible for our outward cosmetic appearance. Without the support of the underlying bone, our faces can look prematurely aged.

Dr. Kamel may also advise bone grafts, depending on the amount of bone that is lost due to gum disease. This involves placing natural or synthetic bone in the area of bone loss, which can help promote bone growth. 

The great majority of bone grafts required for implant placement are minor procedures which can easily be accomplished in the office under local anesthesia or intravenous sedation. Commonly used bone graft materials include autogenous bone (your own bone), cadaver bone (bank bone), bovine bone and synthetic bone. The selection of graft material and surgical technique are based on the location and severity of the bone loss. In most cases, specially prepared cadaver bone and/or autogenous bone are utilized. Autogenous bone is usually taken from other areas of the upper or lower jaw.

For patients seeking dental implant placement, bone grafts is a step and an essential part of the treatment.

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