Periodontal (gum) disease affects more than 50% of US adults, and has been linked to such chronic and systemic illnesses as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. At Jacksonville Dental Specialists, we help patients suffering from gum disease restore their oral health whether they are experiencing the early, mild form of the disease, gingivitis, or the more advanced version, periodontitis. We offer a wide array of treatment options for patients with gum disease, and we work with patients to create a plan for ongoing care that renews their oral health and prevents reinfection in the future. Contact our team in Jacksonville to find out more or schedule an appointment. We also welcome patients from Arlington, Orange Park, and other surrounding communities.
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, occurs when inflammation damages the gums and underlying bone that keep the teeth in place. These structures serve as the cornerstone of good dental health, and when they’re unable to function normally, even otherwise healthy teeth can become loose and fall out.
You’ve probably heard the term for the first stage of gum disease: gingivitis (which means “inflamed gums.”) Fortunately, gingivitis can usually be reversed with 6-month cleanings and good brushing and flossing habits.
But if gingivitis isn’t caught and treated early enough, it progresses to later stages of periodontitis where it can no longer be cured. However, it can be treated to keep it from getting worse, which will greatly lower your risk of tooth loss and the many health conditions associated with gum disease such as heart problems.
Chances are that you won’t feel much pain or discomfort from gum disease, especially in the early stages. But there are still symptoms to watch for, including:
If you have any of these symptoms, come in for an evaluation at your earliest convenience. We have multiple types of periodontal therapy that are very effective, but the earlier we treat your gums, the better.
Gum disease isn’t an automatic sentence to tooth loss. With multiple treatment options, we can help you maintain your smile for many years to come.
In the earliest stage of gum disease, more frequent professional cleanings may be enough to reverse the damage and restore your oral health. However, as gingivitis progresses to the more advanced periodontitis, more thorough cleanings are necessary. Typically that includes a combination of two deep cleaning procedures: scaling and root planing. Scaling is the careful removal of plaque, tartar, and infected gum tissue. This can be completed with metal hand tools or with a soft tissue laser. Once all of the plaque and tartar are removed from teeth, the roots are smoothed. This procedure is known as root planing, and the smooth surfaces make it more difficult for plaque and tartar to build up under the gums. This reduces the patients’ risks for reinfection. Following scaling and root planing, we may also apply topical antibiotics in order to reduce the amount of bacteria under the gums.
Traditionally, scaling and root planing procedures were completed using metal tools, scalpels, and stitches. While this was effective, patients often experienced significant discomfort and bleeding during the procedure, and with immune systems already weakened by advanced gum disease, struggled to recover without further infection afterward. Our cutting edge soft tissue laser allows us to complete these procedures in less time, with less bleeding and discomfort during treatment, and faster healing time following the procedure. The laser uses high intensity light waves to precisely target damaged or infected gum tissue, allowing us to remove minimal amounts of tissue as well as plaque and tartar below the gumline. It also cauterizes the gums to greatly reduce the amount of bleeding during treatment. Since stitches are not typically necessary, patients heal much faster and are less likely to experience reinfection.
One of the main side effects of advanced gum disease is gum recession. Patients often notice this when their teeth start to appear longer. In some cases, gum tissue naturally resumes its healthy shape and volume after treatment, but in other situations, we’ll need to graft tissue from other parts of the mouth, a tissue bank, or synthetic gum tissue to restore the lost shape and structure. Whenever possible, we try to take the graft tissue from one of three locations: the flap on the roof of the mouth, the palate, or the cheek. First, we try to let the gums regrow on their own, but when the roots are exposed, it can result in pain or sensitivity. To minimize this risk, gum grafting may be the best option. The procedure is relatively simple: We numb the area to be treated, place the new tissue, and stitch it in position.
Gum disease is somewhat like diabetes in that it requires ongoing care to be effectively managed. After we’ve treated your gums, we’ll work with you closely to help you maintain your progress. Depending on your needs, we’ll recommend cleanings (called periodontal maintenance visits) every 3, 4, or 6 months to remove any plaque and bacteria under your gumline that you can’t remove at home.
We’ll also perform a gum exam at these appointments to catch any recurring problems as early as possible and will spend time reviewing how to keep everything clean at home. Your oral hygiene habits are critical, so we may demonstrate the best brushing and flossing techniques or recommend special tools such as an electric toothbrush or oral irrigator.
With periodontal therapy and a few good habits at home, you can stabilize your gums, prevent tooth loss, and reduce your general health risks. If you’d like to get started on the road towards a healthier smile, give us a call today!