Did you know that gum disease is the number one cause of permanent tooth loss? It’s true, but gum disease does more than cause tooth loss. It can be both painful and unsightly, and up to 80% of us have some form of it. That’s a staggering statistic, but it also highlights the importance of preventative dentistry. Most gum disease can be avoided by keeping up those regular dental visits and practicing good oral hygiene at home. That’s because gum disease starts where untreated plaque and tartar are allowed to build up, causing inflammation and infection in the gum tissues. Left untreated, pain, swelling, and tooth loss aren’t far behind.
For those patients who can’t avoid gum disease, we have the services you need to fight its progress and deal with its effects.
Scaling and root planing
Scaling, the process of removing plaque and tartar from the teeth with specialized instruments, is familiar to most of us, as the dental hygienist performs it at every annual visit. For periodontic patients, this scaling sometimes must be performed to a greater extent and at a deeper level in order to clear out all the bacteria, plaque, and tartar that are causing problems. Root planing is the scaling performed at the deepest level, down to the root of the tooth.
Gum disease loosens the gum tissues around the tooth, so despite our best efforts, sometimes a tooth will become too loose in its socket to preserve. In these cases, extraction is the best option in order to give the surrounding teeth a healthier environment and a better chance of staying put.
After a tooth is extracted, the jawbone is left with a gap where the tooth root was once anchored in a part of the bone known as the alveolar ridge. If that place in the ridge is left empty, then over time the area will begin to collapse, resulting in bone loss and a sunken appearance. In addition, it also makes it unfit to support restoration work, such as an implant. Ridge/socket preservation fills in that gap, encouraging healing in the area, preventing the bone from shrinking, and providing a better basis for restoration.
In cases where the alveolar ridge has already experienced shrinking due to tooth loss, we can perform a ridge augmentation, in which the jaw ridge is built up using bone graft materials. This provides enough bone and ridge support to allow a dental implant.
If a patient has bone loss in the jaw due to extractions, tooth loss, injury, or other health issues, bone grafts can help to build up the area in order to improve appearance and help with jaw function. Bone grafts can also help provide a better platform for dental restorations.
Pocket depth reduction
Healthy gum tissue fits snugly around the teeth, but since gum disease destroys gum tissue, patients are left with pockets around the teeth, open spaces that make it easier for bacteria to take hold and lead to tooth loss. Pocket depth reduction is the process in which the dentist folds back the gum tissue to clean out the bacteria before securing the tissue back into place, reducing the pocket depth and encouraging healing.
A frenum is a small piece of connective tissue connected to the lip, cheek, or roof of the mouth. A frenectomy, in which that tissue is removed, can be perfomed if the frenum is pulling too tightly against compromised gum tissue, or if the frenum below the tongue is interfering with speech.
Crown lengthening removes gum tissue in order to expose more of the tooth’s surface and is normally done when a tooth needs restoration but doesn’t have enough above the gumline to support it. This procedure can also be used for people who have excess gum tissue around their teeth (a “gummy smile”) in order to improve appearance.
When it comes to gum disease, the best defense is prevention - so don’t skip those annual dental visits! But if you do develop gum disease, rest easy - we have the tools and services you need to fight against it, and win.