WHAT IS GUM DISEASE/PERIODONTAL DISEASE?
Q: How do you diagnose gingivitis, gum disease, periodontal disease, or infection in my gums?
A: We use a diagnostic tool called a probe and x-rays. You may recall going to the dentist and the hygienist calling out numbers or writing them down after she/he uses this tool. We also look for signs of bleeding and inflammation (swollen gums), which are all signs that an infection is present. We also use x-ray which helps us understand how deep the infection has gone. Here is what a probe typically looks like and how we position it in and around the teeth. Gingivitis is an infection in your gums (soft tissue) and usually this condition can be treated with regular dental cleanings and better oral care at home. Periodontitis is chronic infection that has gone deeper into your bones that support your teeth and probing depths are often 5mm or greater with signs of bleeding
Q: What do all these numbers mean when we use this diagnostic tool called a probe?
A: When you are at home brushing, flossing, water picking etc, you can only reach bacteria up to a 3-4 mm depth with these dental tools. So when we reach numbers that are 5mm and larger it tells us that the infection has moved deeper and we need to do a procedure called scaling and root planning to get rid of the calcified deposits called calculus, which is a buildup from soft plaque not being removed on a daily basis, and bacteria that are eating away at the bone supporting your teeth.
Q: What does it mean when I’m told I have gum disease, periodontal disease, periodontitis, gingivitis or an infection in my gums?
A: Gum disease is an infection in your soft tissue, or gums (gingivitis). Periodontal disease means the infection has moved deeper into the bone (periodontitis) from the infection in your gums as a result of not treating gum infection. Gum Infection can often times be reversed with good oral hygiene at home with regular teeth cleanings. Periodontal disease means you need a more detailed cleaning under the gum tissue and around your teeth to remove the calcified deposits and often times includes using antibiotics to treat the infection right at the site of infection. I often explain to my patients that scaling and root planning is like getting your car detailed rather than going through the car wash. The good news is that if you follow through with the treatment that your dental professional has outlined, there is a very good chance of stopping the progression of this infection.
Q: Do you use antibiotics to treat the infection in my gums/bone?
A: In the past 15 years there have been adjuncts developed that we can use to help us treat the infection to allow us to achieve better results out of our scaling and root planning procedure. We use locally applied antibiotics at the site of the infection that slowly releases the antibiotic over 21-28 days. Dental Alternative Servies does not use systemic antibiotics; research has shown that oral systemic antibiotics have little effect on the bacteria we are trying to target. The antibiotic that I use is called Arestin, 1mg minocycline powder that is placed below the gums at each site of infection. If you would like to learn more about this antibiotic, you can go to www.arestinprofessional.com and click on how Arestin works.
Q: Is gum disease or periodontal infection different than if I had an open wound that was infected on my body?
A: Your body’s inflammatory process responds the same way if the infection was on your hand or anywhere else in the body, like your mouth. Would you leave an untreated wound that is infected the size of your palm? If you leave the infection in your mouth without treatment the infection will get bigger and more serious to treat, causing chronic inflammation in your body which links to many systemic disease including diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.
Q: Once I have the scaling and root planning done does that mean I’m cured and the disease/infection is gone.
A: Scaling and root planning, locally applied antibiotics, as well as good oral hygiene at home will often halt progression of infection/disease and the loss of bone around your teeth. Once we stop the chronic infection that means that the infection/disease is not active and we have stabilized your condition. Depending on many factors, this infection/disease can come back in acute stages. This is why it is so important to follow the treatment protocol following active periodontal therapy that your dentist or hygienist has outlined for you. That may mean that you come to get your teeth cleaned 3-4 times a year, as opposed to the standard 2 times a year, so that we may address the acute infection right away, stopping the infection in its early stages.
Q: What happens if the periodontal infection/disease treatment of scaling and root planning and antibiotics doesn’t stop the progression of the infection/disease?
A: Most times the infection is mild to moderate and treatment response is favorable, meaning that we can manage your disease in our office. If the infection is severe and has spread deep in the bone, we will refer you out to a dentist that specializes in these types of surgical procedures.
Q: So if I would have come in for my regular teeth 2 times a year and had good oral hygiene care at home, could I have prevented this infection/disease?
A: Regular care is half of the battle, the other half is genetics. I have seen patients that have not had their teeth cleaned in a few years and they have the calcified deposits under the gums as well as the bacteria and the infection that stays in the soft tissue (gingivitis) and no damage is done to the bone that supports the teeth. That is rare, but it does happen. The best way to ensure that you don’t get the infection or have the infection get deeper and spread is to have regular dental care.
Here are some facts that research has found about Gingivitis and Periodontitis:
- The number one inflammatory disease in the world is gingivitis (gum disease).
- This inflammatory disease is directly linked to the two top killers; heart disease and stroke.
- Evidence is pointing to these diseases being directly linked to diabetes, kidney disease, pancreatic cancer and most recently Alzheimer’s disease.
- There are more bacteria in your mouth right now than there are people on this planet.
- It is considered a silent disease/infection because often times it doesn’t cause pain.
- Dry mouth can cause 1/3 of Gingivitis and periodontitis cases. Many medications, medical devices (c-pap machines) and sjogrens disease are the leading cause of dry mouth.