Non-Surgical Periodontal Disease Treatments
You may think periodontal treatment always involves surgery, but non-surgical therapy can be effective in the early stages of gum disease. Surgical intervention to repair gum tissue and bone is only necessary for more advanced stages of periodontitis.
The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) stresses that periodontal treatment should be carried out in the least invasive way possible.
Gum problems often start with gingivitis, an inflammation that can lead to periodontitis, which in advanced stages can seriously damage the bone and soft tissue that anchor the teeth. However, the early stages of gum disease can be addressed with non-surgical periodontal disease treatments such as scaling and root planing, antibiotics and periodontal maintenance.
Scaling and Root Planing
Early stages of gum disease can be treated with minimally-invasive deep cleaning. This procedure entails scaling, which is more in-depth than a regular cleaning, and root planing to get rid of tartar and plaque below the gum line.
Scaling and root planing is a fundamental non-surgical treatment to combat periodontal disease and allow the gums and bone to heal.
Scaling, the first step in the deep-cleaning process can be carried out with ultrasonic technology or conventional metal instruments, or a combination of both. Root planing, with a local anesthetic, levels a tooth root surface so the gums can attach to it properly.
Standard cleaning and polishing will only remove plaque above the gum line, so isn’t effective to treat gum disease.
Most people feel little or no discomfort from scaling and root planing, although your mouth may be tender for a couple of days, and some patients experience some bleeding or swelling.
After a scaling and root planing procedure, your dentist will want to see you again in a few weeks to assess the effectiveness of the treatment. If it’s worked, the only further periodontal care required is periodic maintenance.
What is Periodic Periodontal Maintenance?
Periodontal maintenance for patients who’ve undergone gum disease treatment entails periodic removal of bacteria-laden plaque and tartar both above and below the gum line. It’s typically carried out at intervals of two to four months to ensure bacterial colonies are kept under control before they can cause more damage.
A local anesthetic is not usually needed for periodontal maintenance procedures unless you have particularly sensitive teeth. In rare cases, scaling and root planing may be necessary for specific areas of persisting inflammation.
Your dentist or dental hygienist will also probably give you specific oral health care instructions to keep gum problems at bay.
This advice may include:
• Using a toothpaste containing an antibiotic and fluoride to fight plaque.
• Brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing regularly.
• Getting regular dental check-ups.
Benefits of periodontal maintenance include:
• Preventing or delaying the progression of periodontitis.
• Identifying areas of continuing inflammation.
• Preventing tooth loss.
Preventing or minimizing the inflammation associated with gum disease also benefits your general health. Periodontitis has been linked to strokes, heart problems, and poor blood circulation.
Medications to Combat Gum Disease
Your dentist or dental hygienist can place antimicrobial medication beneath your gum line to kill bacteria that may still be present after scaling and root planing.
Alternatively, you may be provided with a tray delivery system – customized trays made from impressions of your mouth – to use at home.
Antibiotic pills can also be prescribed in conjunction with non-surgical periodontal disease treatments.
How to Recognize the Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
Early detection is crucial for the most effective non-surgical periodontal disease treatments. However, you may not realize there is an issue with your gums – initially, the problem is often painless.
So it’s important to be able to recognize indications of gum infection before the problem becomes advanced and requires surgery. Signs that you may be developing gum disease include:
Bleeding gums. The bacteria that cause gum infections can make your gums tender and prone to bleeding.
Swollen gums. Red and puffy gums are one of the early signs of periodontal disease.
Persistent bad breath. Constant bad breath (halitosis) may be caused by an accumulation of plaque, which creates toxins in the form of unpleasant-smelling gas.
Receding gums. Gum recession – when the tissue around the teeth erodes – may be a sign of periodontitis.
Sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity can be an indication of gum recession caused by periodontal disease.
Loose teeth. Teeth may become loose because of inflammation beneath the gum line. Periodontitis is one of the main causes of tooth loss.
Are You at Greater Risk of Getting Gum Disease?
Even if you don’t notice any symptoms, you may still have periodontitis, which is more common among men.
You’re at more risk of getting gum disease if you smoke or if your diet lacks sufficient nutrients.
Other gum disease risk factors include:
• Periodontal disease runs in your family.
• You suffer from stress.
• Pregnancy and menopause.
• You have diabetes, cancer or AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).
The likelihood of gum disease increases as we get older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that three-quarters of the U.S. population aged 65 or older have gum disease.
The AAP (American Academy of Periodontology) recommends an annual comprehensive periodontal evaluation (CPE) for all adults.
Benefits of a Dental Exam
According to the WebMD, health information resource, only a dentist can recognize the development and progression of gum infections.
If you suspect you may have a gum problem, see a dentist as soon as possible.
They will assess:
• The condition of your jaw bone, to determine any breakdown of bone surrounding the teeth.
• The firmness of your gums.
• The depth of your gum pockets
• The space between tooth and gum.
• Alignment of your teeth.
If it turns out you need non-surgical periodontal disease treatments, look for a dentist specializing in scaling and root planing and periodontal maintenance.