Your Guide To Gum Disease
The most common disease in the United States is not what you may think. Heart disease, stroke, or cancer come to mind, but actually, gum disease is the single most prevalent disease in America today. In fact, it affects more people than heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's, and cancer combined. About 80% of the population has some form of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, periodontitis (advanced), and gingivitis (mild).
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an infection of the gums and bones that support the teeth, and it usually starts early in life, then progresses as a person ages. It all starts when plaque hardens into tartar (also called calculus) below the gum line. This irritates the vulnerable soft tissues and an infection can set in. Combined with decaying food particles lodged between teeth and bacteria emitted by plaque, the infection can spread quickly. Symptoms are so mild in the early phase that many patients don't notice them: red, tender, swollen gums that bleed whenever the teeth are cleaned.
As the condition progresses, the gums recede from the teeth and pockets of bacteria form. The bacteria can destroy the gum tissue and bone, and eventually cause tooth and bone loss.
Why is Gum Disease so Serious?
Recent research has revealed that gum disease is linked to an increased risk for major overall health problems, including but not limited to stroke, heart disease, respiratory problems, osteoporosis, diabetes complications, low birth weight, and most recently, dementia. Because of these findings, research continues to this day. We may learn even more in the next few years.
It makes perfect sense, though – gum disease is linked to overall health problems. Everything that enters or is present in the mouth has access to the whole body. The mouth is like a portal to the body. That's why regular checkups and hygiene visits are vital not only to your oral health but also your overall health.
Is Gum Disease Curable?
Unfortunately, gum disease is not curable. However, we can detect the early warning signs of gum disease at your regular dental checkups. At this stage, prevention might be as simple as altering your brushing technique, improving your flossing routine, or changing the products you use for oral care at home.
Once gum disease sets in, we can often treat it with nonsurgical therapy including:
- Scaling – to remove hardened plaque from below the gum line
- Root Planing – to reduce the rough areas on teeth roots
- Antibiotic Therapy – to battle infection
- Laser Treatment – to remove bacteria and promote gum reattachment
- Surgery – advanced cases may require the care of a periodontist, in which case we will refer you to a trusted colleague
Afterward, expect to attend more frequent hygiene visits so that Dr. Gregory or your hygienist can monitor your condition and make sure that your recovery is on track.
What is Laser Treatment for Gum Disease?
Combined with comprehensive periodontal therapy, a diode laser for soft tissue procedures can remove and reduce some periodontal infection. This type of treatment also promotes reattachment of the gum tissue to the teeth. Laser dentistry is precise and conservative in comparison to traditional therapies. Some patients do not even need anesthesia during laser therapy.