Philadelphia, Main Line, and Ardmore, Pennsylvania Cosmetic Dentistry
General Dentistry Expertise
Gum disease (periodontal disease) is very common, yet many people know little about it and may even suffer from the condition without knowing. Gum disease is also called periodontal disease because it affects the periodontum, or structures that support teeth. They are:
- The gums (gingiva);
- The cementum (calcified covering over a tooth root);
- The periodontal ligaments (attach a tooth to the bone)
- The alveolar (jaw) bone with tooth sockets
Periodontal disease is an infection that can damage the teeth, gums and supporting jaw bone if not treated in its early stages. In her Philadelphia dentistry practice, Dr. Lindsey Marshall emphasizes the importance of proper dental hygiene and oral care.
How Does Gum Disease Start?
Gum disease starts as gingivitis, where bacteria have invaded the space between teeth and gums and damaged both structures. If gingivitis is not treated, it will progress to periodontitis, the second and more destructive stage of gum disease. Now bacterial damage extends below the gumline, starts to damage the tooth roots, and at some point spreads into the jawbone. Bacteria enter the blood stream and travel around the body, causing problems with the heart, increasing stroke risk, and contributing to diabetes.
Periodontitis is thought of in three stages:
- Chronic periodontitis – inflammation is ongoing and established.
- Aggressive periodontitis – infection is spreading quickly through the gums.
- Necrotizing periodontal disease – infection is entering the jawbone and causing significant pain, bleeding and loss of gum tissue, as well as chronic bad breath (halitosis).
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Gum disease is progressive and can advance quickly if left untreated. The gums recede from the teeth, exposing tooth roots and increasing tooth sensitivity. Bacterial inflammation leads to infection, and pus may form in the open pockets between the teeth and gums. Typical symptoms of periodontal disease include:
- Swollen and bleeding gums
- Bad breath
- Loose or shifting teeth
Studies have shown that tobacco users may be at higher risk for gum disease because tobacco tends to increase plaque and intensifies the infection, making gum and bone loss more likely. It also lowers a person’s ability to heal and fight infection.
The goal of gum therapy is to remove all decayed tissue, plaque, and tartar from your entire mouth – although one must keep in mind that bacteria are always in the mouth and the trick is to keep their numbers down through daily dental care. While early treatment is easiest, Dr. Marshall can still treat gum disease that has progressed and become severe.
Our soft tissue laser makes this far quicker and safer than gum treatments used to be before lasers were introduced into dentistry. The laser instantly removes damaged and infected gum tissue and reduces bleeding by sealing the remaining tissue. Sealing the tissue also makes post-treatment infection far less likely. No stitches are necessary.
Depending on how severe the gum disease is, Dr. Marshall may do your gum therapy in several visits rather than all in one visit. After each laser treatment, your mouth will feel tender for a short while and you will need to stick to a soft diet. Dr. Marshall may prescribe an antibiotic.