By: Dr. Yair Lenga, DDS, MSc, FRCDC, Dip.
Offices: St. Clair Periodontics & Ajax Periodontics
These days, we know more than ever before about how to stay healthy and feel great as we age. We understand the reasons to choose certain foods, why we need certain types of exercise, and how to care for our skin, hair and nails to keep them looking their best.
The truth is, it’s just as important to understand gum disease and its treatment – this common, progressive condition is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults over 35, and has even been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. While gum disease isn’t as high profile as these other conditions, medical experts now assert that it absolutely should be.
Fortunately, by seeing a periodontist now, you can help preserve your teeth, and your health. Learning more about your condition is the first step to taking control.
It can be reassuring to know that you are not alone.
In fact, gum disease affects up to 4 out of 5
Canadians at some point in their lives.
What is Gum Disease?
Simply put, gum disease is an infection. It’s important to note that despite its name, this infection affects not only your gums, but the bone around your teeth as well.
The disease process unfolds in 4 main steps:
Gum disease is also known as periodontal disease,
which literally means “around the tooth”.
Gingivitis is the earliest stage, while periodontitis is more advanced.
Catching and treating gingivitis early may be the key
to preventing your progression to gum disease.
But I Don’t Feel Any Pain…?
Like other condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes, gum disease is often painless until it has reached an advanced stage. By then, it may have cause significant damage to the support around your teeth and put your health at risk.
While there are often no noticeable symptoms, some of the signs can include:
In addition to being silent, high blood pressure, diabetes
and gum disease are all chronic. That’s why it takes ongoing, specialized care
to control the infection in your gums and prevent complications just as it does
for high blood pressure or high blood sugar (diabetes).
Why Is It So Important To Get Treated Now?
Left untreated, gum disease can begin to affect your appearance and lower your quality of life. Without giving you any warning signs, the infection can destroy your gum tissue and bone, and limit your ability to talk, eat and socialize with confidence.
Importantly, it can also affect your general health. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, gum disease has been associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory disease such as pneumonia (when plaque bacteria is inhaled into the lungs). Research now suggests that the key link may be inflammation, with one inflammatory condition in the body triggering others.
The good new is, the sooner you take action:
Why Has My Dentist Referred Me To A Periodontist?
Periodontists are highly-trained specialists in the treatment of gum disease. To help ensure the best possible outcome, dentists often partner with a periodontist to treat those whose conditions are moderate to severe, or who have a complex case or medical history.
Above all, periodontists make every effort to help you keep your natural teeth. The goals of periodontal treatment include:
First, your periodontist will pinpoint the true source of your infection and inflammation. Then, your treatment will be personalized according your level of severity. Some treatments include: scaling and root planning (to detoxify the area below the gum one and prevent bacterial build-up), topical or oral antibiotic therapy, pocket reduction procedures, and tissue/bone grafting or regeneration.
With the latest techniques, there’s no reason
you have to experience any pain whatsoever
during your treatment. Ask your periodontist
about your treatment options.
What Can I Expect from My First Periodontist Appointment?
To understand how best to treat your specific condition, your periodontist will perform a careful examination. Along with reviewing your medical history and checking for receding gums and tooth movement, an important part of the appointment involves gently measuring the depth of the pockets between your teeth and gums. Generally, the deeper a pocket measures beyond 3 millimeters (e.g., 4-6 millimeters or higher), the more the infection has spread. X-rays may also be taken to check for any bone loss.
Most importantly, your periodontist will thoroughly explain what has been found and the available treatment options to help you feel informed and confident. Earning your trust and enhancing your comfort are top priorities and you will be encouraged to take the time you need to decide on a path that’s right for you.