Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an inflammatory condition affecting the soft tissue that surrounds a tooth. A leading cause of tooth loss, gum disease results from an uncontrolled bacterial infection called gingivitis that affects these soft tissues.
If you suffer from periodontal disease, your candidacy for cosmetic dentistry will likely be affected. Gum disease will need to be treated and reversed before treatments like Invisalign braces and Lumineers can be performed. Even non-cosmetic treatments like dental implants and dentures will require treatment of gum disease before they can be considered.
Signs and Symptoms of Gum Disease
Common signs of gum disease include bleeding gums (regardless of whether you’re brushing your teeth); sensitive, red or swollen gums; bad breath; and loose teeth, or teeth that have shifted from their normal position. Gum disease may or may not cause your gums to recede, but if they do, tooth roots can become exposed, leading to tooth sensitivity; pockets can form between your teeth and gums; and pus can develop. This could lead to additional problems including toothaches, tooth decay and the need for root canal therapy.
Additionally, the underlying bone may recede. If gum disease is left untreated, tooth loss could occur.
What are the Causes?
Several factors contribute to gum disease, and each cause can be corrected and controlled. These include poor oral hygiene, which can be corrected with twice daily brushing and once daily flossing and regular dental cleanings; organic imbalances in the mouth due to hormone changes (menopause, pregnancy); and medical conditions like diabetes or kidney disease, which are associated with gum disease.
Certain medications, such as antidepressants and anti-hypertensives, reduce salivary flow and are known to contribute to gum disease. Additionally, clenching and teeth grinding habits that impact the gum tissue also may lead to gum disease.
Gum Disease Treatment Options
Treatments vary based on the severity of the condition and the person. Your dentist will perform a thorough examination to determine how extensive your gum disease is, then develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Most gum disease treatments begin with a professional cleaning to remove calculus (tartar) from the teeth and below the gum line. More intensive cleaning, such as deep scaling and root planing in the gum pockets, may be required. Dentists also may administer local antibiotic treatments directly into the gum pockets, as well as prescribe a medicated mouthwash.
The most severe forms of gum disease may require treatment with tissue regeneration (using membranes to help re-grow bone and gum tissue), surgery to eliminate the gum pockets and remove gum infections, and laser treatments to reduce the size of gum pockets. Treatment costs vary based on several factors, including the extent of treatment and what type of dentist provides the services (general dentist or periodontist), and dental insurance coverage.