Both plaque and tartar are substances that can be found on teeth, and both of them harbor bacteria. This bacteria attacks the gums, leading to gum disease.
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums due to the unchecked presence of bacteria in plaque and tartar on the teeth. This disease begins with annoying symptoms that patients often ignore, not realizing that it can lead to serious consequences like tooth loss and health complications.
Dr. Landon Libby and our skilled hygiene team in Mission Valley understand how troublesome and painful gum disease can be to your daily life once the condition progresses past the possibility of at-home treatment. Our dentist and hygienist can evaluate the health of your teeth and gums and provide gentle, effective treatment to help you regain a clean and healthy mouth.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Plaque forms on your teeth as you eat and drink throughout the day. Even with the best attention at home, which includes regular brushing and flossing, plaque will form without regular dental treatment. Tartar is formed when the sticky film called plaque, that is continually attacking your teeth and gums, is not removed.
Brushing, flossing, and your regular six-month professional cleanings remove this plaque and tartar to prevent harmful bacteria from causing gingivitis. When bacteria gets in below the gum line, it causes inflammation, triggering an immune response from the body. The inflammation and immune response lead to a number of distressing symptoms.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Gum Disease?
Gum disease often begins with symptoms that are annoying, but do not appear to be very serious. These symptoms include chronic bad breath; red, swollen, or tender gums; and bleeding when brushing or flossing. When patients ignore these initial signs, the bacteria in their mouths continue to flourish, irritating the gums and causing even more serious symptoms. These symptoms can include:
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
- Pus in between the gums and teeth
- Sores in your mouth
- A change in the way your teeth and dentures fit together when you bite
There are key differences between these sets of symptoms that help us define the different stages of gum disease. Our hope is that we can treat your periodontal disease at an early stage — when the symptoms are the least troublesome — so we can save you from the pain and life-altering consequences of later stage periodontal disease.
What are the Different Stages of Gum Disease?
Gingivitis is the first mild stage of gum disease. This is where swollen, bleeding gums typically signify initial inflammation. Without your dentist getting involved to remove this plaque and bacteria, early gum disease will progress to periodontitis.
Periodontitis is the stage at which gum disease is far more than a minor annoyance. Gum tissue begins to recede and teeth start to become unstable. Patients may even notice symptoms like pus and sores.
Unfortunately, this is usually the stage at which patients finally come to see us. Periodontitis is often treatable, but it would be far better for patients to visit our office at the gingivitis stage.
In addition to oral health concerns, patients need to be treated for gum disease in order to protect their overall health. Studies have shown that there is a link between a buildup of bacteria always present in your mouth and plaque/major health issues in your body.
Although tooth loss itself is a major concern, the whole-body effects of untreated gum disease are where things get serious: heart disease, arthritis, respiratory disease, and pre-term labor for pregnant women are possible risks — your entire body can be compromised due to the bacteria on your teeth.
How is Gum Disease Treatment Performed?
Periodontal treatment is designed to prevent gum disease from spreading to your jawbone, thereby avoiding tooth loss. The team at Libby Dental is pleased to offer periodontal treatments that will remove the tartar and plaque that form above and below the gumline.
A scaling and root planing procedure is the typical process used by dentists to remove damage and decay caused by advanced gum disease. During these procedures, plaque and tartar are removed from teeth surfaces. This is followed by smoothing out any rough spots on the tooth root. This procedure is performed while you are under local anesthesia. If necessary, your teeth will be evaluated using x-rays to observe the bone supporting the teeth, and an evaluation will be done concerning any treatments in the future.
We will also review how you are controlling plaque with your dental maintenance at home and help you make any necessary adjustments. Dr. Libby will discuss the frequency of periodontal treatments based on your individual oral health, along with the type of periodontal disease experienced and how well you respond to treatment.
What Results Can I Expect After Gum Disease Treatment?
While aftercare depends on the type of treatment performed, patients who receive gum disease treatment can generally expect some degree of swelling, tenderness, and sensitivity in the gums immediately after their appointment. These reactions subside naturally as your gums continue to heal, but over-the-counter medications can usually manage any discomfort in the meantime. Immediately after treatment, our team recommends avoiding very hot or very cold food and drink. Sticking to a soft-food diet and using an antiseptic or antibacterial rinse after treatment can also help facilitate the healing process. Your dental hygienist will provide you with extensive aftercare instructions during your appointment.
Once swelling has subsided, patients should notice an improvement in (or complete elimination of) their symptoms, including pain, bad breath, bleeding, and soreness. Lingering inflammation is normal after treatment, but should resolve over time. We encourage you to practice good oral hygiene after treatment to prevent further bacteria buildup and help you maintain a healthy mouth.
Can I Treat Gum Disease At Home?
Whether at-home treatment is enough to effectively address your symptoms depends on what stage of gum disease you’re experiencing. In many cases, patients who are still in the early stages of gingivitis may successfully eliminate their symptoms by diligently brushing, flossing, and rinsing their mouth with antibacterial rinse. At this stage, the supportive bone hasn’t yet separated from the teeth and professional treatment may not be necessary. If your symptoms only consist of soreness, bleeding, and/or swelling, regular oral hygiene may be enough to remove bacteria buildup and alleviate inflammation.
However, if gingivitis has advanced to periodontitis, professional treatment from a skilled dentist is the only option to remove all bacteria. This later phase of gum disease is characterized by a loss of the supportive jawbone keeping the teeth in place, often causing loose teeth and deepening of the gingival pockets. Consequently, brushing and flossing will not address the bone loss and gum recession that often occurs when an infection spreads in the gum tissue. Only a professional dental cleaning and subsequent treatment for periodontitis can remove all the plaque, tartar, bacteria, and infections that may be affecting your gums.
How Can I Prevent Gum Disease?
The best way to prevent gum disease is through continued maintenance of your teeth and gums. This means preventative actions as simple as regular brushing, flossing, rinsing, and keeping up with your semi-annual dental appointments can go a long way in ensuring your gums remain in good, healthy condition. Since early intervention is the best way to treat and manage gum disease, going to the dentist twice a year is essential to identify problematic bacteria in the mouth before it evolves into periodontitis. In some cases, the early signs of gum disease may only be visible to a dentist, or may not cause obvious symptoms. For this reason, we encourage all patients to always attend their annual examinations to help detect initial gum inflammation before the issue exacerbates.
Dr. Libby and our team can examine your symptoms and develop an optimal plan to treat your gum disease before it worsens into something more serious. You can call our San Diego dental office at (619) 789-5519 to schedule an appointment today!