Gum Disease (Periodontal) Therapy
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. In fact, it affects more people than heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and cancer combined. The American Dental Association estimates about 80% of the population has some form of gum disease, from mild gingivitis to advanced periodontitis.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an infection of the gums and bone that support teeth, and it usually starts early in life, then progresses as a person ages. It can occur as a result of not keeping your teeth and gums clean, or it can be genetic, if your parents or grandparents had gum disease. It can develop when plaque hardens into tartar (also called calculus) below the gum line. This irritates vulnerable soft tissues and 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 recognize them: red, tender, swollen gums, bleeding when brushing teeth.
As the condition progresses, gums recede from teeth and pockets of bacteria form. The bacteria can destroy gum tissue and bone, ultimately causing bone and tooth loss.
Why is Gum Disease so Serious?
Recent research reveals that gum disease is linked to increased risk for major overall health problems, including stroke, heart disease, respiratory problems, osteoporosis, diabetes complications, low birth weight, and most recently, dementia. While these diseases initially seem to have nothing in common with gum disease it actually makes sense. Everything that enters or is present in the mouth has access to the whole body through the digestive tract and the blood stream. The mouth is like a portal to the body. That’s why regular check-ups and hygiene visits are vital to not only oral health, but also overall health.
Is Gum Disease Curable?
Unfortunately, gum disease is not always or completely curable. However, we can detect early warning signs of gum disease at your regular dental check-ups. At this stage, prevention might be as simple as changing 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 in the early stages with non-surgical therapy including:
- Scaling – to remove hardened plaque from below the gum line
- Root Planing – to reduce rough areas on teeth roots so plaque can’t stick or accumulate easily
- Antibiotic Therapy – to battle the low-grade but chronic infection
- Laser Therapy – to kill bacteria below the gumline and promote gum reattachment to the teeth
Moderate and advanced gum disease may require more aggressive treatment such as surgery. Surgical procedures are the last resort, so it’s always better to find and treat gum problems as early as possible.
What is Laser Therapy for Gum Disease?
Combined with comprehensive periodontal therapy, a diode laser for soft tissue procedures can reduce or even completely remove some periodontal infections. This type of treatment also promotes reattachment of gum tissue to teeth to close off the pockets where bacteria can accumulate. Laser dentistry is precise and conservative in comparison to many traditional therapies. Most patients do not even need anesthesia during laser therapy.