How Periodontists Can Improve Your Gum Health
Periodontal disease can have a profound effect on not just your appearance, but your overall dental health. When excess bacteria forms in the plaque that accumulates on your teeth, your immune system tries to kill that bacteria – unfortunately, it uses substances that can do a great deal of damage to your gums. However, by visiting your periodontist regularly and getting into a good dental-hygiene routine, you can reduce the chances that problems will occur.
A Plan of Attack
While everyone should visit a dentist once every six months or so, you will probably need to visit more often if you have gum disease. This is, of course, in addition to brushing and flossing your teeth every day.
The main consequence of not brushing and flossing – as well as not seeing the dentist for a thorough cleaning – is that too much plaque will build up on your teeth. When that plaque spreads below the gum line, you can’t reach it with your toothbrush -- allowing the bacteria to multiply which will likely lead to bleeding gums due to inflammation.
When a person’s gums swell due to bacterial inflammation, they eventually separate from the teeth. Pockets then form, providing an even better breeding ground for bacteria leading to more plaque buildup. Once this occurs, you’ll need to visit a periodontist.
What to Expect
If you have never seen a periodontist before, first expect a thorough examination. You’ll be asked about your dental history as well as your medical history and about any conditions you may have. Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and diabetes are just a few of the conditions that can substantially affect your gums.
The periodontist will also check the joints in your jaw, neck and head and take a look at your cheeks, tonsils and tongue. More than likely, he or she will also take X-rays of your mouth to show any bone loss you may have experienced.
Once the exam is complete, your periodontist will then determine the best treatment approach.
All patients are different, and as a result there is no “one size fits all” approach to periodontal health. There are some levels of disease in which a non-surgical approach to treating the gum disease is appropriate and other levels where some surgical access to remove the infection and strengthen the bone is necessary.
One non-surgical option, for example, used for gum inflammation and bleeding is a topical antibiotic or antimicrobial product. The antimicrobial mouth rinse chlorhexidine can reduce plaque, but it can also stain teeth and cause mouth irritation. It is only available through a prescription. Antibiotics can also slow the progression of periodontal disease, and in some cases are used as an adjunct to treatment. Tetracycline has been shown to be effective in stopping infection and inflammation, and aids with healing. There are several other medications that can either suppress bacteria or kill it to improve gum health.
If routine dentist visits and daily oral hygiene don’t prove to be effective in maintaining gum health, talk to a periodontist to explore your different treatment options.