What is Periodontitis?
Periodontitis, better known as Gum Disease, is more common than one might think. This condition occurs when bacteria in the form of plaque and calculus are allowed to grow unchecked on the teeth. The body’s natural inflammatory response kicks in causing swelling and redness in the area and can even lead to bleeding gums. This infection can eventually spread below the gum line and cause even greater damage to the supporting bone and the periodontal ligament which hold teeth solid in your jaw.
How is Periodonititis Treated?
There are several different periodontal treatments we may use to fight the effects of periodontitis. These include:
- Deep Cleaning (scaling and root planing)
- Pocket Reduction Surgery
- Gum Grafting
At a regular hygiene appointment your hygienist will clean the surfaces of your teeth that are visible above the gum line. This, however, is not adequate for patients who are dealing with periodontitis. Periodontitis requires a deeper cleaning below the gum line to remove any buildup of tartar and debris that harbor the bacteria responsible for the inflammation.
Pocket reduction surgery
The longer periodontitis is left the more tissue and bone is destroyed by the bacteria. This in turn leaves deep pockets around the teeth increasing the spaces where debris can collect and feed the growing bacteria. This cycle then causes more tissue and bone loss until tooth extraction is needed.
Pocket reduction surgery is normally recommended once the pockets become too deep to be easily cleaned at home in combination with professional cleaning. This procedure requires the gum tissue to be folded back exposing the infected area. The disease-causing bacteria is removed along with any damaged tissue or bone before securing the gum back into place. This reduces the space the bacteria has to grow and thus the opportunity to cause more damage to tissues.
When your gums have pulled away from your teeth exposing the root, it is called gum recession. You may notice your teeth looking longer than they used to or you may experience more sensitivity. This is because the root, where all the nerves of the tooth reside, is now exposed. This can be caused by periodontitis or brushing too aggressively with a stiff toothbrush.
To restore the damaged tissue and prevent future dental problems your dentist may prescribe gum grafting or a gingival graft. A gum graft involves harvesting gum tissue from the roof of the mouth and placing it over the exposed root area. The new tissue is stitched in place and eventually grows together with your existing gum tissue providing a protective covering once again for the roots of the teeth involved.
Other Periodontal Treatments
Crown Lengthening – this is the removal of gum tissue to expose more of a person’s tooth. This is usually done for cosmetic reasons or when a tooth is broken off at the gum line it may be done to support a new filling or crown. This can also be used to treat a “gummy smile”. This is a condition when a person has excess gum tissue around the top teeth.
Socket Preservation – When a tooth is extracted the jaw can loose bone structure in the area by 30-60% in as little as six months. Socket preservation, also known as ridge augmentation, reduces this bone loss by using platelet rich fibrin or bone grafting material in the area of the extraction to encourage bone growth. This procedure is especially important when preparing for dental implants.