It is important to note that gum disease often has no symptoms. Sometimes there is redness, swelling, bleeding or bad breath. However, many times there are no symptoms to indicate there is infection or the symptoms may simply go unnoticed. For this reason, it is very important to see your dentist on a regular basis and to be sure you are being checked for gum disease.
Checking for gum disease includes measuring the “pocket” depth, (the space between the gum and the tooth), with a little instrument called a probe and taking full mouth x-rays at least once every five years. These are the diagnostics needed to properly diagnose gum disease. If your dentist does not include probing in his examination, you may need to see a periodontist.
Important note: Dental implants will never get a cavity, but they can be lost to gum disease!
Once periodontal disease has been diagnosed, there are various forms of treatment. Gingivitis, the earliest form of gum disease, can be tackled with a few good cleanings and some improvement in brushing and flossing technique. For more significant disease, a more aggressive cleaning called scaling and root planing may be indicated. Scaling and root planing involves cleaning below the gum line with special instruments to remove bacteria and toxins from the tooth root. This is done with local anesthesia in one or more visits. For some, this is the only treatment necessary to get the gums back on track.
For even more advanced disease, use of the Perioscope may be recommended. The Perioscope is a fiber optic instrument that provides 40x magnification of the tooth root on the computer screen. It allows the technician to actually see the plaque and calculus and to remove it most effectively. Removal of plaque and calculus is the key to effective treatment of gum disease.
If gum infection has caused significant damage to the gum and bone supporting the teeth, a “flap procedure” may be indicated. This involves surgical access to the deep pockets, allowing for materials to be placed that will initiate regeneration of the lost tissue and bone.
Remember, the first step in preventing gum disease is good oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing on a daily basis, as well as routine visits to the dentist for your check-up can go a long way in keeping your gums healthy.
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