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Periodontal Therapy – Laser

Periodontal Disease – What is it?

Meaning “around the tooth,” periodontal disease affects the gums that surround the teeth and the bones that support them.  Plaque that is left to build up on teeth eventually changes from a sticky film into tartar (calculus).  Together, plaque and tartar start to break down the gums and bone in the mouth. If the plaque is not removed (by flossing, brushing, and regular dental checkups), it will continue to build up and create toxins that can damage the gums.  Periodontal disease forms just below the gum line and creates small pockets that separate the gums from the teeth.  One common symptom of this disease is red, swollen and bleeding gums.  The two most common types of gum disease are:

  • Gingivitis — this is the early stage of gum disease, when the gums become red and swollen, and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is treatable and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing.
  • Periodontitis — if left untreated, gingivitis will advance into periodontitis, and the gums and bone that support the teeth will become seriously and irreversibly damaged. Gums infected with periodontitis can cause teeth to become loose, fall out, or be removed by a dentist.

It is estimated that four out of every five people have some stage of periodontal disease but are unaware of it. Typically, this is because the first stages of the disease are often painless.

Periodontal disease is the number one cause of tooth loss, and it has also been associated with other serious diseases, such as bacterial pneumonia, diabetes, stroke, increased risk during pregnancy and cardiovascular disease.  The risk of periodontal disease increases with people who smoke.

Signs and symptoms of periodontal disease:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Loose teeth
  • New spacing between teeth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Pus around the teeth and gums
  • Receding gums
  • Red and puffy gums
  • Tenderness or Discomfort

Diagnosis of Periodontal Disease

Dr. Giaquinto or our hygienist can diagnose this disease during a periodontal examination, which is included in your regular dental checkup.  A small dental instrument called a periodontal probe is used to measure the space (sulcus) between the teeth and the gums. A healthy sulcus should measure three millimeters or less and it should not bleed. The probe will indicate if the spaces are deeper than three millimeters. Deeper pockets typically indicate a more advanced stage of the disease.  In addition to measuring the sulcus, Dr. Giaquinto will check for inflammation, tooth mobility and other signs that will help in making a diagnosis.

Treating Gum Disease

Treatment for periodontal disease is determined by the type and severity of the disease. Your dentist and hygienist will be able to make the best treatment recommendations for your situation. Typical treatments include:

  • Non-surgical treatments such as at-home periodontal trays, and scaling and root planning (deep cleaning)
  • Periodontal surgery and laser gum surgery
  • Dental implants

One or two regular cleanings are typically all that is necessary to clear up the early stages of gingivitis, when there has still been no bone damage. We will also provide you with tips on how to maintain healthy dental habits at home, so the disease does not return.

More advanced stages of the disease require scaling and root planning (deep cleaning). Normally, this type of cleaning is done on one quadrant of the mouth at a time, and the area being treated is made numb. This procedure removes tartar, plaque and other toxins from above and below the gum line and on root surfaces. Cleaning out these toxins helps the gums to heal, shrinking the pockets back to a normal size. Depending on the patient, we may also recommend medication, mouth rinses and an electric tooth brush to help clear up the infection.

If scaling and root planning does not clear up the problem, periodontal surgery may be necessary to get the pockets back to a normal size.  Reducing the pocket size makes keeping your teeth clean much easier.  Depending on your case, laser treatment may be an option for you.  Laser treatment uses different wavelengths and power levels to remove calculus, and help gums better attach to the tooth, reducing pocket size.  Dr. Giaquinto may recommend that you see a specialist in this field.

Preventing Gum Disease

Certain factors can increase a patient’s risk of developing periodontal disease, including:

  • Smoking or using chewing tobacco
  • Diabetes
  • Certain types of medication such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, calcium channel blockers, and oral contraceptives
  • Bridges that no longer fit properly
  • Crooked teeth
  • Old fillings
  • Pregnancy

Regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are important for maintaining your health and the health of your smile. You don’t have to lose teeth to periodontal disease, and by practicing good oral hygiene at home, you can significantly reduce your chances of ever getting gum disease. Remember to brush regularly, clean between your teeth by flossing, eat a balanced diet, and schedule regular dental visits to help keep your smile healthy.