Gum Disease

Periodontal disease affects over 70% of the North American adult population. At its onset it causes the gums to become tender and bleed slightly. The final stages of this disease can cause tooth loss.

Gum disease is not only devastating to the oral health but researchers have linked it to various systemic disease including heart disease, stroke, and pregnancy problems. It also poses a serious threat to people whose health is compromised by diabetes, respiratory disease and osteoporosis.

The most common forms of periodontal disease are as follows:

  1. Gingivitis. This is the initial stage when the gums are tender and bleed easily. It is easily controlled with proper home and professional care. If untreated however it can lead to more serious complications.
  2. Periodontitis. The gums separate from the teeth forming “pockets.” It is very difficult to properly clean these “pockets” as they are below the gum line and bacterial toxins start to break down the bone and connective tissues that support the tooth. If untreated this can lead to the eventual loss of the tooth.

The main culprit in periodontal disease is plaque formation due to improper oral hygiene (see brushing and flossing), however the following factors can contribute to the disease:

  • Smoking.
  • Poor Nutrition.
  • Stress.
  • Hormonal changes during puberty and pregnancy.
  • Medications with side effects that can affect the gums.
  • Diabetes.
  • Genetics.

Unfortunately there are very few symptoms at the initial phase of periodontal disease, and the dentist or hygienist usually diagnose early onset in the dental office. Symptoms include bad breath, and red, bleeding gums with loose and sensitive teeth.

Treatment involves a non surgical and a surgical approach. If the pockets are accessible to the dental instruments, the deep deposits are removed by scaling the roots of the teeth. The rough roots are now planed to their original smoothness. If the pockets are deep and inaccessible a surgical flap approach is taken. Here, the gum tissues are released facilitating the removal of all the sub gingival deposits. Once clean, the gums are sutured snugly back in place.

In case of severe gum recessions a tissue graft may be recommended. A small piece of tissue is taken from palate and placed at the recession site to make up for the gingival that is lost. Bone grafts are also indicated in areas where there is severe bone loss.