Your smile is one of your most important assets, especially when making a first impression or striving to continue a solid relationship. At the Henderson dental offices of Dr. Joshua Ignatowicz, we never want you to be ashamed of your smile or worried about anything that can negatively affect it. One condition that can have a major impact on your smile is periodontal disease (gum disease).
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontitis is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gums which can also affect the jawbone and can lead to tooth loss and overall systemic issues. There are four basic stages of periodontal disease: gingivitis, chronic periodontitis, aggressive periodontitis, and necrotizing periodontitis. It all starts with the buildup of bacterial growth in your mouth. If not treated by our expert periodontist, it can progress into irreversible stages of damage.
Following the gingivitis stage, the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth and create pockets. When food and debris become lodged in these pockets, they get infected. The body will start to fight the bacteria. During your body’s natural fighting response to the infection, toxins produced by the bacteria begin to break down the bone and connective tissue holding your teeth in place. The deeper the pockets become the more gum tissue and bone that is destroyed, and eventually you may lose teeth.
Additionally, periodontitis can cause bacteria to enter the bloodstream through the gum tissue and possibly have negative effects on your heart, lungs, and other parts of the body. Though more medical studies are needed to confirm the connection, periodontal disease may be linked with respiratory disease, rheumatoid arthritis, coronary artery disease, or stroke.
What Symptoms Can I Look For?
When you are doing the regular maintenance of your teeth (brushing and flossing), you should also pay attention to the color and firmness of your gums. Healthy gums should be firm, pale pink, and fit snuggly around your teeth. There are some signs and symptoms to be aware of if you think you might be at an increased risk for periodontal disease. These include:
- Swollen or puffy gums
- Red or purplish gums
- Tender gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Receding gums (your teeth may start to look longer than you are used to)
- Spaces between your teeth which were not previously there or loose teeth
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Pain while chewing
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down than you’ve noticed previously
If you have noticed any of these symptoms, it is best not to wait until your next dental visit to ask if they might be early signs of periodontitis. Call the dental offices of Dr. Joshua Ignatowicz as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. Remember, the sooner Dr. Ignatowicz can examine your mouth and make a diagnosis the sooner treatment can start. You don’t want this possibility to linger and affect other aspects of your life or cause new health conditions.
How Did I Get This Gum Disease?
When it comes to the causes of periodontal disease, the primary cause is plaque built up in your gums which inflames your gum tissue. However, there are other factors which can contribute to the onset of gum disease.
Hormonal changes in women during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause make gums more susceptible. Puberty can also lead to the development of gingivitis. In the same way that hormonal changes cannot be avoided, patients whose families have a history of dental disease are also at higher risk of developing gingivitis as are older individuals.
Certain illnesses such as cancer, leukemia, and HIV/AIDS can affect the immune system and lead to a deteriorating condition of your gums. Diabetes patients are also at higher risk of developing infections like periodontal disease because of the way diabetes affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s Disease are also placed at higher risk. In the same vein, certain medications can directly affect oral health.
Finally, bad habits like smoking, inadequate nutrition (including a Vitamin C deficiency and obesity), substance abuse, and poor oral hygiene (not brushing and flossing daily) affect your gums. Smoking inhibits gum tissue repair and a lack of daily preventative care makes it easier for gingivitis to develop.
Can Gum Disease be Treated?
Yes! At the Henderson dental offices of Dr. Joshua Ignatowicz, we can treat your periodontal disease to get your oral health back on track. To start we will review your medical history to identify any factors which could be contributing to your condition. Then Dr. Ignatowicz will examine your mouth, measure pocket depth (the groove between your gums and teeth) to see if it is deeper than 4mm, and finally take dental X-rays to check for bone loss.
Once all of these examination methods are complete, Dr. Ignatowicz can make a diagnosis. Depending on how advanced your gum condition is, we can start with a deep cleaning which involves scaling and root planing. Scaling removes the tartar and bacteria from the surfaces of your teeth and between your gums. Root planing smoothes the root surfaces to discourage the further buildup of tartar and bacteria that was just removed in the scaling process. This will also remove bacterial byproducts which contribute to inflammation as well as slowed healing or reattachment of the gum to the tooth surfaces. We can also prescribe certain bacteria-specific antibiotics following your deep cleaning to eliminate the infection. These could be topical or oral; topical antibiotics can be antibiotic mouth rinses or can involve the insertion of gels containing antibiotics in the space between teeth and gums or the pockets after a deep cleaning.
If your periodontal disease has advanced beyond these treatments, we may have to consider surgical procedures such as “flap” surgery (pocket reduction surgery) where the gums are lifted back from the teeth so that tartar can be removed and pockets eliminated. If the gum disease has affected the gum tissue to the point where it is receding, Dr. Ignatowicz can perform a soft-tissue graft to replace the tissue. In the most severe cases, bone grafting can be done to augment any bone in the jaw which has been eaten away and stimulate new bone growth.
Early Detection of Gum Disease
The best way to ensure that your gums are in good health is for a periodontal disease expert such as Dr. Joshua Ignatowicz to examine your teeth at least each year. During your regular visits, our experienced dental staff will give you a thorough cleaning and check for any signs of gum disease in the tissue and surrounding areas. Dr. Ignatowicz will also give you advice and tips for your own personal at-home oral hygiene care.
Sometimes the factors listed above can still negatively impact your oral health even though you’ve been meticulously following your preventative care regimen, but your regular visits at our Henderson dental offices can lead to the earliest possible detection of periodontal disease. If you notice that anything is painful about your teeth, gums, or jaw or you observe blood when you brush or floss, be sure to call us as soon as possible to schedule a dental visit.
Avoiding Further Risks to Your Oral Health
As with most preventable diseases, there are certain preventative care measures that can be taken to ensure you have the healthy, beautiful smile you’ve worked so hard to maintain. In addition to regular dental visits with Dr. Ignatowicz, brushing your teeth twice daily is first and foremost. You will want a soft-bristled toothbrush and make a circular motion aimed at the gums. An electric toothbrush could also be considered for a more effective removal of plaque and tartar. Secondly, you should floss your teeth every night in order to get any food or debris out from between the teeth and at the gum line. Using an antiseptic and/or fluoride rinse as directed can be very beneficial as well.
In addition to your daily oral health preventative care measures, you can make a few lifestyle choices to remain free of periodontitis. These include not smoking, avoiding sugary snacks and carbonated drinks, and eating a well-balanced diet. All of these measures will contribute to better oral health and keep you smiling for a lifetime.
Steps to Recovering from Periodontal Disease
Once your gum disease has been treated, your gums, teeth, and jaw may need some time to heal. If you are in pain, Dr. Ignatowicz may prescribe over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen. Most patients feel better very quickly after their appointment. It is important that part of the recovery process is to continue to prevent the disease from returning. Plaque can still build up in the gum line, so it is critical that you maintain your preventative care regimen at home, make regular dental visits (twice each year), and avoid outside factors (smoking, sugary foods, etc.) that can cause a relapse more quickly.
Dr. Ignatowicz Knows Periodontal Disease
When you entrust Dr. Joshua Ignatowicz with your oral health care, you can rest assured knowing that he is an experienced dentist and periodontist. He understands all of the causes and underlying issues associated with gum disease and has expert training in all of the treatment methods available. He can take you from your initial appointment through the diagnosis process and into treatment and aftercare. And you can be sure that he will help you figure out an at-home preventative care regimen to maintain your oral health between visits. Contact the Henderson dental offices of Dr. Ignatowicz today to learn more about periodontal disease, to make an appointment, or to set up your free dental consultation!