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If you have gum disease, you may or may not know it depending on the severity and stage of the disease. The earlier you catch this condition and treat it, the better your chances of reversing it. This is why seeing your dentist regularly is so important, as with other oral health treatments early intervention is the least invasive, least costly, as well as most effective to ensure a successful outcome.

Also called periodontal disease, this condition is an infection and inflammation of the gum tissue which impacts the teeth it supports. It arises when plaque (a colorless, sticky bacterial film) and tartar or hardened plaque collect on the teeth over time. If it is left alone, it will continue to worsen and you will be looking at possibly losing teeth and supportive bone because of serious gum recession. But it’s not just your oral health that suffers; this insidious disease has been correlated with diabetes, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even complications with pregnancy.

Fortunately, it’s not that hard to keep plaque under control – that’s why you brush and floss every single day. Along with routine dental visits that allow our dental team to remove tartar, your daily oral hygiene practice is the number one protective action you can take for a healthy smile. Once plaque hardens, it takes a professional dental cleaning to remove it. Our goal at Gentle Dental Arts is to help you prevent gum disease from gaining a foothold in your mouth in the first place. With our help, you can hopefully avoid these potentially devastating issues.

So how do you know if you might be at risk of this serious condition? Smoking is probably the biggest preventable contributor to this disease. It not only leads to gum disease but continues to weaken your ability to overcome it even with treatment. If you have diabetes, AIDS or are taking medications that cause dry mouth, you are also at greater risk of gum disease.

What are some signs that you might have periodontitis? If you have chronic bad breath, your gums are sore, swollen or bleeding, you have sensitive teeth (caused by gums receding and exposing the dentin layer under the tooth enamel), or it hurts to chew – these are all indicators of gum disease. If your teeth are loose because of gum recession the disease is advanced.

How we diagnose gum disease

– Evaluating your medical history to see what risk factors could be making you more susceptible.
– Examining your gums to spot a buildup of plaque and tartar around the gumline and to see if there is bleeding.
– Using a dental probe to measure the space (pockets) between the gums and teeth. The depth of these pockets indicate the severity of the disease and the pockets will need to be cleaned to allow healing.
-Taking dental X-rays of your mouth to find areas of bone loss.

If you are diagnosed with gum disease treating it starts with controlling the infection. You’ll also need to step up your home hygiene care to keep plaque from building up again. This means brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush twice a day and using a fluoride toothpaste to support your tooth enamel. You’re also going to want to floss because it removes plaque from between teeth, something your toothbrush just isn’t equipped to do. The flossing tool you choose isn’t important as is the fact that you find something that works for you and that you will do every day. Water flossers (oral irrigators), flossing brush, a plastic pick, all of them can do the job. We may recommend you top off your routine with a mouth rinse to control plaque. You’ll need to supplement your daily oral hygiene with additional dental cleanings to keep tartar off of the gumline. If you are a habitual tobacco user, you will need to stop, and a cessation program can help you do just that.

Treatment for gum disease

For mild to moderate gum disease, we will start with nonsurgical treatments. Options might include:

Scaling – this treatment involves our dentist using a special tool designed for this purpose to get rid of the tartar and bacterial debris from your teeth and also clean the area under your gums that support the teeth.

Root planing – scaling is followed by root planing which allows our dentist to go in and smooth out the surfaces of the tooth root. Smooth surfaces don’t allow tartar and bacteria to stick so easily. This helps the tissue to heal and reattach to the surface of the tooth without bacterial interference.

Antibiotics – to keep the bacterial infection at bay, antibiotics can be used. Depending on the severity of the infection, antibiotics can take the form of oral antibiotics, specific microbial oral rinses, or antibiotic gel.

Surgical treatment for advanced gum disease 

Soft tissue grafts – this involves taking a little bit of tissue from your palate or other source and attaching it to the damaged gum tissue. Not only can this help the appearance of your teeth by covering exposed tooth roots but it can also fend off additional recession of the gums.

Bone graft – if advanced gum disease has severely damaged the supportive bone material around the tooth’s root additional bone material may need to be added to help the natural bone regrow and also hold the affected tooth in place.

Guided tissue regeneration – to facilitate the regrowth of bone material that was destroyed, you might need to have a piece of biocompatible material placed between the bone you still have and the affected tooth.

Tissue-stimulating proteins. To restore a diseased tooth root, you may have a special gel applied to the area to promote the development of healthy bone and tissue.

As you can see, gum disease should not be taken lightly or ignored. Timely treatment is needed if you want to keep it from permanently damaging your teeth and gums. Our gentle dentist and caring dental team are dedicated to helping you protect your oral health for a lifetime of smiles. We invite you to reach out to us at 801-788-4922 for any concerns you may have about your oral health or to schedule a visit with Dr. Alexander Larsen in Orem, Utah.