Gum Disease starts with Bacteria — so do Heart Attacks. There are billions of bacteria in our mouths. Up to 600 different species by morning, all working together to damage your teeth and gum tissue. Bacteria coats the teeth in a soft, sticky plaque (similar to bacterial plaque that clogs arteries and causes heart attacks). Minerals in the saliva cause this plaque to harden into calculus or tartar.
The best way to interfere with bacteria is daily oral hygiene and other points listed here: (1) Visit your dentist regularly. (2) Brush your teeth 2 to 3 times a day. (3) Use a soft brush with a fluoride toothpaste. (4) Clean between your teeth with floss. (5) Be gentle but very thorough with home care.
Excessive buildup of plaque and tartar on and around the teeth can cause the gums to become red and swollen. This inflammation is known as gingivitis. Gingivitis often causes the gums to bleed. Smoking and chewing tobacco increase the risk of gum disease. We should brush, floss and rinse to remove bacteria from the mouth and prevent gingivitis from irritating our gums.
Dr. Gove may have told you about infections known as “periodontal diseases” or “gum disease”. There are two very important things you must know now:
1) Periodontal disease is today’s #1 cause of tooth loss among American adults.
2) Many patients who have periodontal disease do not experience any noticeable symptoms!
Why do people lose teeth to periodontal disease?
Healthy gums should wrap snugly around the teeth. Unfortunately, bacteria inside the mouth can travel deep beneath the gums. As bacteria make their way beneath the gums they create gaps- periodontal pockets- around the teeth. Bacteria cause an infection that attacks the ligaments and bone that anchor the teeth. As a consequence, people lose teeth!
Why is tooth loss most often due to periodontal disease?
Simple- people don’t realize they have a problem until it’s too late! Many patients who have periodontal disease do not experience any noticeable symptoms! But some people do experience signs of the disease, such as:
- chronic bad breath
- red, swollen or tender gums
- gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- gums that bleed upon brushing
- loose teeth
- green or yellow pus around the teeth and gums
- hard deposits (calculus) on tooth surfaces
- a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- a change in the fit of partial dentures
Prevent bacteria from taking over your mouth!
Deep pockets become “nests” for harmful bacteria that are difficult to remove. Your toothbrush and floss have no chance of reaching down there. In fact, the typical instruments that dental professionals use to clean your teeth often can’t reach these deep areas where periodontal bacteria hide. A “regular cleaning” won’t even come close to touching this stuff.
A periodontal probe is the dental professional’s ruler. Since many patients with periodontal disease do not experience any noticeable symptoms, we carefully check all the way around every single tooth looking for and measuring pockets.
Beating Periodontal Disease- Surgery or No Surgery?
So now you know: inadequate oral hygiene allows bacteria to nest around the teeth deep beneath the gums; the gums and bone that anchor teeth in place are attacked; your brush and floss- even the dentist’s “regular cleaning” doesn’t touch these infections.
You will be glad to know—we can help! First, we need to identify problem areas during a thorough exam. Then we spend some time “catching up” with the bacteria. Most of the time, we can beat periodontal disease without resorting to gum surgery and reconstruction.
Mechanical Removal of Bacteria
We get your teeth and gums comfortable with numbing gel or anesthetic. We thoroughly remove bacterial plaque and calculus from the root surface (Scaling) and smooth the surfaces (Planing). “Scaling and Root Planing” (aka SRP) is the deep cleaning above and below the gums to remove bacterial buildup surrounding the entire tooth.
You must reach and kill the bacteria. Surgery may be necessary, but we will do everything reasonable and possible to remove and kill the bacteria without surgery. In moderate to severe areas of infection we use a special antibiotic to kill the harmful bacteria!
We now have a new product called Arestin, an antibiotic which we can use in the deeper areas of your gum infection. Arestin powder contains “microspheres”, which are tiny beads smaller than grains of sand. These microspheres release antibiotic over time into the infected periodontal pocket.
We simply place Arestin below the gum line exactly into the periodontal pocket, where it dissolves over several days and lasts for weeks. This will kill bacteria and enhance reattachment of the gums to the teeth and give you a better chance of avoiding gum surgery.
The precise delivery of antibiotic is fantastic! Not only is this like dropping a nuclear bomb on the harmful bacteria, the effects of antibiotics anywhere else in the body is minimized.