Periodontal disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults.
Also known as “gum and bone disease”, it acts much like termites on the foundation of your house. And like termites, the disease is silent until it is very advanced.
These are photos of one of our patients before and after periodontal treatment. In the left photo, notice the swollen, red gums and the thick tartar on the teeth.
When she first came to our office, this patient had periodontal pockets that extended up to 6 mm (1/4”) under the edge of her gums. In addition to improving her appearance, her breath also dramatically improved.
Bacteria thrive in the deep periodontal pockets. The bacteria and its by-products create plaque, and the plaque eventually absorbs calcium from the mouth to form calculus, or in lay terms, tartar. Calculus leaves a very rough surface on the root of the tooth, and even allows the bacteria to imbed itself onto the root surface.
Treatment for periodontal disease is primarily aimed at removing the bacteria that cause the disease. One of the primary treatments for periodontal disease is root planing, where the hard deposits of calculus are removed from the root surface, then the root surface is smoothed to remove infected tooth structure. Unlike an ordinary cleaning appointment, root planing is performed in a very detailed fashion under the gums.
Root planing can be done comfortably, either by numbing the treated area, or with a product called “Oraqix” that delivers topical anesthetic gel gently into the periodontal pockets to numb the gums without injections. To keep patients even more comfortable, we recommend they take a non-steroidal medication like Advil or Aleve before the root planing, which results in a dramatic decrease in inflammation and discomfort from the procedure.
Our office is one of a few in the United States that has ozonated water available to aid in treatment during root planning. In it’s July 2008 edition, the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice stated that “ozonated water strongly inhibited the formation of dental plaque…(showing that) ozonated water is useful in reducing infections caused by microorganisms present in dental plaque.”
Improved home care is also a must in treating periodontal disease. Different tooth brushing techniques are taught to provide additional gentle massage for the infected gums, and daily use of floss or floss substitutes also greatly improve healing.
When periodontal pockets are especially deep, a referral to a periodontist, a specialist in gum surgery, may be needed to improve the chances of saving teeth.
Because your toothbrush and floss cannot reach further than 3mm (1/8”) below the gums, patients with periodontal disease usually require more frequent cleanings. Only a dental professional can reach these deep areas. By allowing your dental hygienist to perform this gentle cleaning every three months, harmful bacteria are disturbed before they can cause additional damage.
Dr. Moorhead and his team write about dental news, and answer patient questions.