Periodontal disease, sometimes called gum disease, is a common but serious oral health issue that affects people of all ages. It happens as a result of plaque and bacteria building up at the surfaces of teeth and can lead to severe health and dental complications.
Luckily, gum disease can be prevented, treated, and even reversed if caught in its early stages. At Gallardo Periodontics and Implant Dentistry, we offer a variety of state-of-the-art gum disease treatments to help stop the condition from progressing and reduce the risk of serious concerns, such as pericoronitis, receding gums, and permanent tooth damage.
What causes periodontal disease?
The human mouth is teeming with all kinds of bacteria. Some of these bacteria are good; they help break down food and maintain a healthy balance in your mouth. But an excess of “bad” mouth bacteria can be pretty harmful, contributing to bad breath and increasing your risk of developing cavities, gum inflammation, and periodontal disease.
In most cases, periodontal disease — an infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place — occurs when there’s an overgrowth of bacteria due to improper oral hygiene. Poor brushing and flossing habits allow food debris and other impurities to seep deep into the teeth’ pockets at or below the gum line. The bacteria, mucus, and other particles in the mouth that get trapped into these pockets form a sticky film known as plaque, which then releases acids that destroy your teeth’ protective covering, called enamel.
But poor oral hygiene is not the only cause of gum disease, other risk factors that may contribute to this condition include:
- Certain diseases, particularly those that interfere with the immune system
- Hormonal changes
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- A family history of oral disease
- Recreational drug use
- Certain medications
- Nutritional deficiencies, including vitamin C and vitamin D deficiency
The surprising link between oral health and heart disease
While it may seem strange that heart health and gum disease are linked, think about it: when the bacteria in the mouth triggers gum bleeding, that same bacteria can enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. Once the bacteria have entered the system, they can attach to fatty deposits in the heart’s blood vessels. This can cause plaque formation along the arteries while increasing the chance for blood clots (which can cause heart attacks and strokes).
Bacteria from gum disease can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cause bacterial endocarditis, which involves the lining of the heart and valves becoming enlarged. The risks of gum disease in heart health aren’t insignificant either; research has shown that severe gum disease can almost double the risk of heart disease.
Symptoms of gum disease
One of the reasons gum disease is so common is that it rarely produces any symptoms until it has progressed to advanced stages. That’s why learning how healthy gums should (and shouldn’t) look like, as well as getting to know the warning signs of periodontal disease, can clue you in on what’s happening inside your mouth:
- Pink and firm
- Don’t move or sink when you press them with your finger
- Don’t bleed when you brush or floss
- Look dark red or purple
- Are tender to the touch
- Bleed easily
- May present pus between teeth
- Are puffy and swollen
- Pull away or recede from teeth
- Cause one or more teeth to become loose
- May cause bad breath or a metallic taste in your mouth
If you are concerned about your oral health or think you may have gum disease, please don’t hesitate to call us at 305-547-8687 or click here to schedule a consultation in our Miami office today.
Types of gum disease
The most common form of gum disease is gingivitis, a mild inflammation of the gums around the teeth. Gingivitis is caused by poor brushing habits, but unlike more severe forms of periodontal disease, it can be easily resolved with good oral hygiene.
Left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, also known as advanced periodontal disease. Periodontitis, which can be moderate or advanced, is a severe infection that damages the soft tissue surrounding teeth and destroys the nearby bones. Advanced periodontitis can trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body that increase your risk for certain health conditions.
Necrotizing periodontal disease is a rare and severe type of periodontitis that usually only occurs in individuals with an immune system disorder. It is a painful and rapidly progressing disease that destroys the gingival (gum) tissue, tooth ligaments, and underlying jawbone.
Diagnosing gum disease
Gum disease is usually discovered during a routine checkup by a dental professional. If periodontal disease is suspected, your dentist may examine your gums, search for signs of inflammation, and use a tiny ruler called a probe to measure pockets around your teeth. In some cases, you may need x-rays to rule out bone loss. If gum disease is discovered, your dentist will likely refer you to a periodontist, like Dr. Gallardo.
While untreated gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in the United States, there are treatments available to stop its progression and sometimes even reverse it altogether. At Gallardo Periodontics and Implant Dentistry, we offer a wide range of surgical and non-surgical gum disease procedures to help you gain back your oral health and quality of life.
There are several gum disease treatments that don’t require surgery. Dr. Gallardo usually recommends minimally invasive non-surgical methods if the gum disease has been caught early and there is a good chance it can be reversed.
Professional cleaning is designed to remove destructive plaque and tartar from the mouth. If you are at risk of gum disease, Dr. Gallardo may suggest more than two professional dental cleanings a year so that bacteria levels can be kept down and the long-term effects of gum disease can be reduced.
In some cases, we may suggest a non-surgical alternative called scaling and root planing. This treatment involves scraping away plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line (scaling) and smoothing out the rough areas on the roots of the teeth (planing). This may be an appropriate option when the gum disease has spread from the gums to the jawbone and the roots of the teeth.
Sometimes non-surgical treatments might not be effective, and surgery will become necessary. Depending on the extent of the gum disease and damage, Dr. Gallardo could recommend one of the following procedures:
Flap surgery: During flap surgery, the gums are lifted back, and the tartar is removed. Then, the gums are placed in a way that allows the tissue to fit snugly around the teeth. The purpose of flap surgery is to reduce the space between the gums and tooth to minimize the areas where harmful bacteria can potentially grow and reproduce.
Bone grafting: This popular surgical procedure involves using bone fragments to replace any bone that has been destroyed by gum disease. Bone grafting is designed to promote natural bone regrowth so that the stability of the teeth can be restored.
At Gallardo Periodontics and Implant Dentistry, we often recommend the AlloDerm bone grafting procedure. AlloDerm uses a soft gum grafting material that serves as an excellent alternative to using the patient’s own gum tissue. A great advantage to this procedure is that it doesn’t require any additional surgery to harvest bone tissue.
Gum health is good health
Gum disease is a serious condition that can result in tooth loss and severe oral health problems. It can also worsen or increase your risk of developing other health conditions, like heart disease and diabetes.
The good news is that the earlier it’s caught, the easier it is to reverse. If you suspect you may have gum disease or other dental issues, don’t hesitate to call Gallardo Periodontics and Implant Dentistry at 305-547-8687 or click here to schedule a consultation. Dr. Gallardo and the rest of our team look forward to providing you with the care and treatments you need to enjoy a beautiful, healthy smile!
Yes! In most cases, gum disease can be prevented by practicing good oral health practices. This means brushing at least twice a day and flossing once daily. In addition to everyday maintenance, regular checkups and cleanings are needed to remove plaque and tartar and rule out early-stage gum disease (gingivitis).
You are a candidate for gum disease treatment if you’ve been diagnosed with periodontitis by a dentist or periodontal specialist. The sooner you seek treatment for gum disease, the more likely it is that the treatment will be successful. In some cases, periodontal disease can actually be reversed. Dr. Gallardo will thoroughly check your gums to confirm the gum disease diagnosis and design an individualized treatment plan that’s right for the state and severity of your condition.
No. Gum disease cannot go away on its own without treatment. Early-stage gum disease (gingivitis) can be treated at home with proper oral hygiene. However, as the disease progresses to periodontitis, immediate professional care is necessary to prevent permanent gum and bone damage.
Most dental insurance policies cover at least a percentage of periodontal disease treatment. Talk to your insurance provider or call our office at 305-547-8687 for more information about insurance coverage and financing options.
Dr. Gallardo performs non-surgical or minimally invasive gum disease treatments whenever possible. This allows for less pain and discomfort and more successful results.