Gum Disease Therapy

At Lady Bird Dental, our providers constantly emphasize the importance of good oral hygiene habits, like brushing and flossing daily. Why do they do this? Well, one of the main reasons is to prevent gum disease. Gum disease is a very serious condition that can wreak havoc on your health if left untreated. Being educated is your best defense, so we encourage you to read about the condition below. It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms, so you can seek treatment as soon as possible. Contact our Austin, TX office if you have any questions.

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection of the gums and bones that support the teeth. It is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, and it has been linked to other serious health problems—such as heart disease and stroke. 

Most commonly, this condition is caused by the accumulation of plaque and tartar along the gum line. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. If not removed by routine brushing and flossing, the film hardens into tartar; tartar can only be removed by special tools used in our office. 

As tartar and plaque continue to build along the gum line, this irritates the gum tissue—causing it to swell and retreat from the teeth. This creates pockets between the tooth and gum tissue, which are unfortunately the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. 

As the disease progresses, bacteria fill these pockets and destroy the supporting ligaments of the tooth; this eventually leads to tooth loss.

Stages & Symptoms

Gum disease is a progressive condition, meaning it gets worse over time. The condition can be classified into three separate stages: gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis.

Gingivitis is a milder form of the disease and is the phase in which the condition begins irritating the gum tissue. Symptoms at this stage are often overlooked, but may include:

  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Swollen, red, or tender gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Receding gums

At this stage, the condition has not caused any permanent damage and may be treated by increasing oral hygiene habits. However, if left untreated, gingivitis can progress into periodontitis, which is a much more serious form of the disease.

Periodontitis is the second stage of gum disease and is when the bacteria begin to destroy the bone surrounding the teeth. Symptoms at this stage include:

  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Swollen, red, or tender gums
  • Receding gums
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • Persistent bad breath

As the disease progresses, the symptoms will only become worse. The bacteria will continue to destroy bone and gum tissue, eventually leading to tooth loss.

Advanced periodontitis is the most severe form of the disease and can have a significant impact on your oral health—and overall health. Symptoms at this stage include:

  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Deep pockets between teeth and gums
  • Severely swollen, red, or tender gums
  • Receding gums
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Tooth loss

The Importance of Gum Health

Far too often, patients underestimate the importance of gum health. The gum tissue is seen as less noticeable than the teeth and therefore less important; however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The gum tissue is just as important as the teeth—maybe even more so.

The gum tissue is the foundation for the teeth; it literally supports the teeth and helps to keep them in place. Without healthy gum tissue, the teeth would be exposed, unsupported, and incapable of performing any of their proper functions. Even so, many patients overlook their gum health until they have lost a tooth or are experiencing significant health problems associated with the disease.

In addition to impacting your oral health, gum disease has also been linked to many serious health problems—such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and respiratory disease. This is because the bacteria from the infection can enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body.

If you are concerned about gum disease, or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above, please call our office to schedule an appointment. We will be happy to examine your mouth and determine the best course of treatment.

Scaling & Root Planing

The good news is that gum disease can be managed. Even once it has begun to damage the gum tissue and bone, it can still be controlled with proper treatment. The first step in treating gum disease is to remove the tartar from above and below the gum line. This process is called scaling and root planing, and is usually done over the course of two or three appointments.

  • Scaling is the process of thoroughly removing the accumulation of tartar. This is done with special instruments that are designed to gently remove the buildup without damaging the teeth or gums.
  • Root planing is the process of smoothing out the roots of the teeth so that the gum tissue can reattach itself. Once this has been done, the gum tissue will be able to heal properly and the disease can be controlled.

In some cases, scaling and root planing may be all that is needed to control the disease; however, in other cases, additional treatment may be necessary. If this is the case, we may refer you to a periodontist (gum specialist) for further treatment.

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