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Gum Disease

Gum disease (periodontal disease or periodontitis) is an insidious disease that attacks the supporting structures of the teeth. You can have great teeth – no cavities, terrific enamel, all lined up straight, and yet lose them to gum disease as you age.
This is the primary reason that you need to stay regular with your dental visits, so that a licensed dental hygienist can keep your teeth clean and monitor the health of your gums. Most people who lose their teeth lose them to periodontal disease. Take it seriously!

The warning signs of gum disease

If you notice any of the following signs, you probably have gum disease and need treatment:

◾ Gums that bleed easily.
◾ Red, swollen or tender gums.
◾ Gums that have pulled away from the teeth.
◾ Pus between the teeth and gums when the gums are pressed.
◾ Persistent bad breath or bad taste.
◾ Permanent teeth that are loose or separating.
◾ Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.
◾ Any change in the fit of partial dentures.

What is periodontitis?

Periodontitis or gum disease is a chronic inflammatory disease, like arthritis, only it causes the supporting structures of your teeth to dissolve away. It can go on for years before you ever notice any symptoms, and the first symptom may be loose teeth. If you wait until you have symptoms, it may be too late to treat the disease and you may have to just have your teeth extracted.

Treatment for gum disease

If you have early periodontal disease, and you want to keep your teeth and avoid gum surgery, it’s going to require some treatment and some slight changes in lifestyle. Here’s the outline of what you need to do:

◾ Initially, you need to get a deep cleaning, called “scaling” or “root planing” that goes under your gum and removes all of the calculus and microbial debris from the tooth surface. This cleaning can take hours, and is usually spaced out over two to five appointments, and is done with anesthetic.
◾ The initial treatment may also include some medications. This is a developing area of knowledge, but, in the cases of some patients, periodontitis is responding to light doses of antibiotics to help resist the bone destruction and also antimicrobial rinses under the gums.
◾ You will need to have great home care habits. Where before you may have been able to get away without flossing daily, this habit now takes on great importance.
◾ You will need to have a professional dental cleaning more often. Rather than having this done every six months, you will now need to have it done every three months.

Additionally, more time will need to be allotted for this cleaning, and your hygienist will have to have more than the ordinary level of expertise to handle your case. This means that each dental cleaning will cost more. And, to add to the burden, many insurance companies will decline to pay for this extra care. They do this as a cost-saving measure. Remember that insurance companies are not benevolent societies — they are businesses whose objective is to make money. Don’t let their lack of caring for your long-term health cause you to not get appropriate care — do what you need to do for yourself

  • Copyright © Alan R. Stein DDS