Your Quick Guide to Periodontitis Treatment and Recovery
Understanding the importance of gum health.
In many ways, your gums are the unsung heroes of your oral health. When we think of oral health, we often think of our teeth first, but your gums are just as important for your oral health as your teeth are. This is because your gums help support your teeth and work as a seal against bacteria, keeping them away from the vulnerable roots of your teeth. If your gums aren’t healthy, your teeth aren’t, either! Periodontitis can do just as much damage to your teeth as it does to your gums, so it’s important to identify and treat it as quickly as possible.
Despite this, it’s not uncommon for people to be more well-versed in tooth health than they are in gum health, so if you’ve been diagnosed with periodontitis, you might find yourself with a lot of questions. We want your treatment process to be as easy and low stress as possible, so we’ve put together a guide to help you understand this condition, the impact it can have on you, and what you and your family dentist can do to resolve it. How does periodontitis develop?
Many factors can play into the development of gum disease, but the biggest are poor oral hygiene—especially a lack of flossing—and medical conditions like autoimmune conditions or diabetes that make you more vulnerable to gum disease. Often, periodontitis starts out as a more minor type of gum disease called gingivitis, where bacteria attack the gum line and cause your gums to become inflamed and sensitive. If gingivitis isn’t treated or if you don’t start flossing every day, it can worsen and develop into periodontitis.
What are the warning signs of periodontitis?
While periodontitis is a serious oral and overall health concern, it’s often painless. This makes it surprisingly easy for the condition to go unnoticed until it’s severe. Despite this, there are several signs of periodontitis that you can look out for at home, including:
- Gums that bleed easily, including when brushing or flossing your teeth.
- Swollen gums.
- Dark red or purple gums.
- Receding gums.
- Development of deep pockets between your teeth and gums.
- Persistently bad breath.
- Pus between your teeth and gums.
- Development of spaces between teeth.
- Teeth that are loose or falling out.
- A shift in the way your bite fits together.
If you notice any of these signs, you should call our office immediately to schedule an appointment with your dentist. After all, the earlier gingivitis or periodontitis is identified, the easier it is to treat.
What happens if periodontitis isn’t treated?
When periodontitis goes untreated, it can cause lasting damage to your gums and teeth, including permanent gum recession and tooth loss. These changes to your mouth have a lasting impact on your oral health and often need additional dental treatments to try to resolve them. It might sound strange, but periodontitis can also impact your overall health. It does this because oral bacteria that make their way underneath your gums can end up in your bloodstream, increasing your risk of serious health conditions like high blood pressure, endocarditis, heart disease, and stroke. Thankfully, preventing or treating periodontitis can keep you from developing these conditions, keeping you healthier for longer.
How is periodontitis treated?
While gingivitis can usually be treated at home with a regular oral hygiene routine that includes flossing, periodontitis’ more severe nature means that it needs to be treated at your dentist’s office. Periodontal therapy uses both nonsurgical and surgical procedures to clean bacteria from beneath your gum line and remove any active decay while taking steps to reduce the likelihood that you’ll experience periodontitis in the future. Which method your dentist recommends will depend upon the severity of your case. Generally, however, they try less invasive methods before moving onto other treatment options.
Nonsurgical treatment options include scaling and root planing, which are usually carried out together. During scaling, your dentist cleans bacteria and plaque from the surface of your tooth roots and beneath your gum line, while root planing involves smoothing the surface of your roots to discourage future bacterial growth. For more serious cases, pocket reduction surgery allows your dentist to clean your tooth roots and the area beneath your gums more directly and thoroughly. The surgery also gives your dentist the chance to reduce any deep pockets that may have developed between your teeth and gums, making flossing easier. While you heal, your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics or a specialized mouthwash to reduce the risk of infection.
Is damage caused by periodontitis reversible?
Periodontitis can have lasting impacts on your teeth and gums, including deep pockets in your gums, gum recession, bone loss, and missing teeth. Thankfully, there are ways to repair this damage, restoring the health, function, and appearance of your teeth and gums. Deep pockets can be repaired during pocket reduction surgery. Gum grafts, which use tissue from yourself or a donor to restore your gum line’s appearance and protect your tooth roots, can help reverse the damage done by gum recession.
Similarly, bone grafts can help restore the bone density in your jaw, which is an essential step for some people who want to receive dental implants to replace one or more missing teeth. Dental implants are the best tooth replacement option for many patients, but they’re far from the only one! If you’ve lost one or more teeth to gum disease, you can restore your missing tooth with dental implants, a bridge, partial dentures, or full dentures. It’s always better to address these issues promptly, and these solutions can be the key to restoring the health, functionality, appearance, and confidence of your smile.
Why is it so important to ensure fully healed gum tissue?
When it comes to your oral health, gums have several vital jobs that we don’t often talk about. The first is that they’re part of the supporting structures for your teeth—they play a significant role in keeping your teeth securely in place while you eat, speak, and smile. Your gums also create a seal against oral bacteria, protecting your vulnerable tooth roots from them and preventing bacteria from entering your bloodstream. These two roles are vital to your oral and overall health.
Without your gums, your teeth can’t stay healthy or stable enough to do their jobs, and bacteria would easily find their way into your bloodstream, creating otherwise avoidable issues with your overall health. But the opposite is also true—and that’s why maintaining healthy gums is so important! Healthy gums make it easier to maintain better oral and overall health in the short and long term. This saves you the time, energy, and money you’d otherwise be spending on appointments and treatments—and, more importantly, it helps you feel better every day!
How can you and your dentist promote healing and support gum health moving forward?
The good news is that maintaining your oral health is incredibly simple! The best thing you can do moving forward is to commit yourself to a great dental hygiene routine. Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day, floss at least once a day, and use mouthwash daily. Flossing is especially important for preventing gum disease because it’s the only way to remove plaque and bacteria from around the gum line and between your teeth. Choosing toothpaste and mouthwash that’s designed to help fight gum disease or cavities can also make a surprisingly big difference in your oral health. It’s also a good idea to drop harmful habits like smoking and other forms of tobacco use, which increase your risk of gum disease. Replacing them with healthy habits like exercise and a good, balanced diet will also improve your gum health.
Another tip we just can’t stress enough is to make use of your best resource when it comes to oral health: your dentist! They’re there to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask them for advice. Being aware of any risk factors you have that may make you more vulnerable to gum disease and learning how to lower this increased risk can also be vital. Additionally, part of following your dentist’s advice also means scheduling a regular dental checkup at least every six months—or more often if your dentist tells you that you need to see them sooner than that.
Your gums are often the unsung heroes of your oral health—but even unsung heroes need proper care to truly thrive! Even though maintaining healthy gums is a key part of making sure that your oral and overall health are thriving, it’s not hard to do. If you’d like to learn more about periodontitis or periodontal therapy and the impact that each can have on your health, feel free to call and schedule an appointment with your family dentist at any time.