Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, affects a significant percentage of the population in the United States, with a large majority undiagnosed. Periodontal disease has varying degrees and it is one of the most common reasons adults lose their teeth.
Periodontal disease is caused by the body’s response to a bacterial infection in the gum tissue and ligament space around the teeth, which over time will cause loss of ligament and bone supporting the teeth. It can be localized to a few teeth or generalized to the whole mouth. The secondary effects of gum disease is the bacteria in your tissue and root surfaces can get into your blood stream, seeding to places of turbulent blood flow such as your heart, which is why clearance for heart surgery usually requires a sign-off by your dentist before most heart surgeons will operate.
Numerous peer-reviewed studies have been published in the last decade showing a link between oral health and systemic health. These studies show that if you have an unhealthy mouth you are at risk for developing serious systemic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pre-term labor, as well as auto-immune and inflammatory diseases. For those who already have a systemic illness and who also have poor dental health, they are at a higher risk of developing crippling disabilities associated with their illness. Improving the health of your mouth can reduce your risk for future illness, reduce the negative impact your current illness is having on your body, can reduce the amount of medication you need and in some cases can actually reverse your illness entirely.
One of the easiest ways to tell is to vigorously floss between your teeth. If there is blood on the floss, than at the very least you have gingivitis, and possibly a more progressive gum disease. It should be noted that healthy gums do not bleed when you clean your teeth with brushing or flossing.
Only an exam with a dentist and hygienist can determine whether or not you have a gum disease, as it is based off the measurements of the small pockets around your teeth.
The main and best way to treat periodontitis is by a process called scaling and root planning (or deep cleaning). Your hygienist will numb your mouth and gently debride all the tooth surfaces above and below the gum tissue to reduce the bacterial load and give your body’s immune system time to catch up and fight the bacteria on your teeth. This can be combined with systemic antibiotics as well as locally delivered antibiotics to also attack any bacteria that is embedded in the tissue around the teeth.
If you feel this treatment is not something you’d be able to tolerate with local anesthetic only, we are the only practice in the area that can offer IV moderate or deep sedation during the procedure to relax you or put you to sleep. Explore our anesthesia options more.