Treating Gum Disease
Gum diseases, or periodontitis, are serious infections that, if left untreated, can lead to tooth loss. It is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults 35 and over.
Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Gum disease can affect one tooth or many teeth.
It begins when the bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colorless Biofilm that constantly forms on your teeth) causes the gums to become inflamed.
At Santa Teresa Dental, our goal is to do everything in our power to ensure that you maintain healthy teeth and gums throughout your life. The cornerstone of this commitment is what we call soft tissue management.
Frequently Asked Questions
We come into contact with Biofilm every day.
The plaque that forms on your teeth is a type of Biofilm. Clogged drains are caused by Biofilm, and one may have encountered biofilm-coated rocks when walking into a river or stream.
Biofilm forms when bacteria adhere to surfaces in some form of watery environment and begin to excrete a slimy, gluelike substance that can stick to surfaces.
Biofilm can be formed by a single bacterial species. More often it consists of many species of bacteria, as well as fungi, algae, protozoa, debris, and corrosion products. Essentially, a biofilm may form on any surface exposed to bacteria and some amount of water.
In our mouth, Biofilm contains communities of disease-causing bacteria and their uncontrolled accumulation has been associated with gum disease.
- Gingivitis: Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease. It causes the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. It is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.
- Periodontitis: Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis.
With time, Biofilm dental plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums.
- These toxins cause the tissues and bone that support the teeth to break down, and they are eventually destroyed.
- Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected.
- As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed.
Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms, but the consequences are severe. The jawbone dissolves and you can eventually lose your teeth.
Soft tissue management is a non-surgical approach to address and manage the progression of early to moderate stages of the gum disease. Its goal is to control disease and restore the gum tissue to a healthy state. Hopefully, the patient will avoid the invasive surgical phase of the treatment.
Since we know that gum disease is a Biofilm bacterial infection, we use a two-tiered treatment strategy.
- removal of the Biofilm and calculus (tartar) from the teeth and gums
- followed by antibiotic treatment
At Santa Teresa Dental, removal of the Biofilm includes mechanical debridement with hand and a high-power ultrasonic scaler, as well as the elimination of the diseased gum layer with the precision of a laser. Once the diseased layer of tissue is removed, a topical antibiotic is applied to the area and a prescription strength mouth rinse will be provided to the patient.
Once we have the gum disease under control, laser gum re-contouring will be performed in an effort to permanently reduce the gum pocket.
The oral environment of a human body is unique.
The oral environment is unique in that disease-causing bacteria can never be fully eliminated. The bacteria return every time you eat and drink. For this reason, oral infections are chronic diseases that require ongoing treatment and daily care with proper oral hygiene.
The dental hygiene appointment
Our dental hygiene appointments are anything but “routine.” It is during these appointments that we conduct a detailed assessment of the health of your teeth and gums. We provide a thorough examination for early detection, diagnosis, treatment, and maintenance of periodontal disease and for the early detection of oral cancer.
During the exam process, we measure the gums with a little round ruler. You will hear the clinician or hygienist call out numbers; these are gum measurements, which are documented in your patient record. Measurements of 0, 1, 2, or 3 are acceptable. Measurements of 4 and higher may be areas of concern. Additionally, the presence of bleeding gums is always a concern.
Type I – Gingivitis
If you are diagnosed with Type 1 Gingivitis, your gums are bleeding and inflamed. Typically, this level of the disease can be controlled in two appointments.
The first appointment will take approximately 1 hour. A laser can be used to remove the disease. You will be provided with specific home care instructions.
Your second appointment will be scheduled approximately 4-6 weeks later. At this time, the tissue will be reevaluated to determine if further treatment is necessary or is disease free.
Your next professional dental hygiene appointment will then be scheduled 3-6 months from that time.
Type II – Beginning Periodontitis & Type III – Moderate Periodontitis
At this point, the gum disease has progressed to a more serious state, and there is some evidence of jawbone loss as well as deterioration of the tissues that hold the teeth in place. Treatment of this level of gum disease will likely require three sessions.
Two sessions will include debridement and laser therapy. The final session will be to evaluate your homecare efforts to ensure that they are adequate to avoid a recurrence of the disease.
The need for Localized antimicrobial treatment such as Atridox, which is a topical antibiotic, would be evaluated and may be recommended.
The treatment appointments will require two-to-four hours of time. The first two appointments will be scheduled one week apart and the re-evaluation appointment will be scheduled four-to-six weeks later.
Type IV+ – Advanced Periodontitis
Type IV+ Periodontitis is a more advanced stage of the disease. The jawbone has dissolved further as have the tissues holding the teeth in place.
At this point, the teeth are likely becoming loose and you are at risk of losing some of your teeth. You may be referred to a periodontist. This is a dentist who specializes in treating severe periodontal disease.