Periodontal Disease: As Serious as A Heart Attack
Maybe you’ve heard of gum disease, but how do you know what it is? Nearly 80 percent of the U.S. population has some form of gum (or periodontal) disease without even realizing it. Untreated gum disease can lead to heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and pregnancy complications.
Understanding Gum Disease
Characterized by a persistent bacterial infection surrounding one tooth or several teeth, gum disease causes little discomfort and produces few obvious symptoms in the early stages. When periodontal disease is not treated, it spreads and compromises the teeth, bone, and gums.
Who is at Risk?
Any of the following conditions greatly exacerbate the risk of gum disease:
- Smoking, tobacco use, hormone fluctuations, stress, some medications, bruxism, diabetes, poor nutrition, HIV and any disease resulting in immunosuppression, heredity, and poor oral hygiene.
Gums irritated by bacteria can recede from the teeth, creating deep pockets where more bacteria can hide and flourish.
Treating Gum Disease
Early on, when redness, swelling, and bleeding are the only symptoms, we can treat and reverse gum disease non-surgically. Regular check-ups significantly increase your potential for early detection and conservative treatment. Treatment will include careful, individualized instruction regarding the most effective means of brushing and flossing at home.
This strategy is sometimes accompanied by professional scaling or careful scraping of all affected tooth surfaces, gum pocket irrigation, and even local antibiotic placement in areas of significant irritation. Often, patients experience immediate improvement. However, if symptoms don’t improve significantly, you may require surgical treatment.
If gum disease progresses without intervention, a patient may need surgery to remediate the disease and restore the mouth to good oral health.
Typically, periodontists may perform four surgical treatments:
- Pocket depth reduction
- Bone or tissue regeneration
- Crown lengthening, and/or
- Soft tissue grafts