Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is one of the more serious dental ailments. It is caused by hardened plaque (also known as tartar) at the base of teeth, where bacteria positively flourish. The bacteria, in turn, can cause the gums underneath the teeth to become inflamed. In severe cases, the bacteria would have infected the gums so badly that it spreads to below the gumline, destroying the bones and soft tissue that support the teeth. Regular brushing, flossing and professional teeth cleaning are the surefire ways to avoid periodontal disease. If you experience any symptoms of periodontal disease (see number one below), here are some of the most important things to do:
Consult your dentist. There’s just no going around this. Regular dental consultation (at least once every 6 months) will help prevent gum disease from happening or getting worse. You should also consult your dentist right away when you start experiencing these symptoms: swollen, tender or bleeding gums, pain whenever you chew, loose teeth, and bad breath. These are the primary symptoms of gum disease.
Know the extent of the periodontal disease. The severity of gum disease varies extensively, with the least serious being gingivitis. In the case of gingivitis, the gums are just inflamed as bacteria haven’t taken root down beneath the gums. Untreated gingivitis will escalate to periodontal disease or periodontitis, where gum tissue and bone are destroyed.
Do know that gum inflammation in the earliest stages can still be treated and reversed. However, once the bacteria have started infecting below the gum line, periodontal disease becomes incurable; the best thing to aim for is to prevent further damage. Damage down to about 4mm is still reversible; further than that and it’s incurable.
Have scaling and root planing. This procedure is a deep-cleaning method where the dentist scrapes off the plaque and tartar (scaling) and eliminates the bacterial spots and pockets where the bacteria are found (root planing). These procedures can be done manually (with proper dental tools, obviously) or with laser treatment.
Know the medications that might be recommended. Your dentist may recommend medications that will inhibit bacterial growth. These medications are taken in conjunction with other dental procedures (such as scaling and root planing). Antibiotics are the most commonly prescribed medication, and these could take the form of mouthwash, gel, or capsules.
Know the surgical treatments available. In cases of severe periodontal disease, surgery is usually needed. One surgery is the flap surgery, where the dentist lifts back the gums in order to remove the pockets of bacteria and tartar underneath. Afterwards, the gums are secured back in place. In cases when the tissues and bones have been damaged, bone and tissue grafts may be undertaken.
Use dental implants. In case teeth have been lost because of periodontal disease, they can be replaced by dental implants.
Remember, the single best way to deal with periodontal disease is simply prevention. Make flossing and brushing an unbroken habit, and avoid smoking (which is one of the leading causes of periodontal disease). The moment that you begin to experience symptoms of gum inflammation, consult your dental practitioner right away. Good luck, and hope this helped!