When you brush and floss your teeth, you’re probably thinking about taking care of your teeth not your gums. Your dentists at Hatch Family Dentistry, however, don’t just examine your mouth to determine the state of your teeth. They carefully look at how healthy your gums are as well. A variety of problems could plague your gums, not the least of which is periodontal disease, or gum disease.
There are actually two main types of gum disease — gingivitis and periodontitis, with periodontitis being the more serious form. Both are characterized by a bacterial infection of the gums and caused by the buildup of hardened plaque (concentrated colonies of bacteria), and they vary in severity alone.
The milder version of gum disease, gingivitis, is common enough that you’ve probably experienced it to some extent already. Gingivitis occurs when there’s just enough plaque around the gums to slightly irritate them. For example, if you’ve ever had your gums bleed when brushing or flossing, you’ve likely experienced signs of gingivitis. For the most part, if you keep up with your oral hygiene and visit the dentist regularly, the gum disease should never progress beyond this point.
Left unnoticed and (more importantly) untreated, though, the relatively harmless gingivitis can develop into periodontitis, which is much more serious. With periodontitis, the bacterial infection doesn’t just manifest as mild irritation. It can have lasting effects on the gum tissues and jawbone. Severe periodontal disease can even result in teeth falling out.
Many of the symptoms of periodontitis may match those of gingivitis only in more serious forms. Some of the most common ones include:
Because some of these symptoms can be characteristics of other oral health issues, self-diagnosis of periodontitis can be difficult. Thus, if you think your symptoms match any one of or several of the ones described above, you should set up an appointment with one of our dentists immediately.
may be a serious dental problem, but it is fortunately very preventable. Gum disease is caused by an infection of dangerous bacteria. Getting rid of that bacteria, then, is the easy way to prevent and even reverse the effects of gum disease.
How can you do this? Simply flossing at least once a day can be incredibly effective. Gum disease is caused by bacteria buildup on the teeth around the gum area specifically, so cleaning those areas with a piece of floss can directly decrease the likelihood of infection. Taking special care to brush where your gums meet your teeth can be effective as well. You might experience some bleeding at first (especially if you’ve been lax with your oral hygiene lately), but the bleeding should stop after a few days of careful brushing and flossing.
The way in which dentists treat periodontitis is actually very similar to the way you would prevent it: via a careful cleaning of the area. However, the tools that your dentist uses are much more sophisticated than the piece of floss you would use. Root planing and scaling, or deep cleaning of the gums, can involve a variety of tools that work to remove the bacteria and the particles in the mouth that they feast on.
The process does require the application of a local anesthesia. After making sure the area is appropriately numb, the dentist will get to work on the deep cleaning, carefully scraping away plaque buildup both around the gums and underneath it. Every part of the tooth from the roots to the tip is scrubbed clean of bacteria, and special antibiotics are often applied to further combat the spread of the infection. Root planing and scaling as a whole is very straightforward — it is essentially a deep cleaning of the area.
If you think you may have gum disease, or you want more information about the ways in which it can be combatted, make sure to contact Hatch Family Dentistry to get more details. Our dentists are always ready to discuss various treatment options with our patients in the greater Phoenix area.
Just call (480) 838-3073 or visit our website to set up an appointment today!