Periodontitis is a medical term that means inflammation around the teeth. The inflammation that we are talking about is caused by a buildup of bacteria under the gums. When it first starts out, it is known as the gum disease gingivitis. It doesn’t usually hurt, and many people are very neglectful or not very observant of what’s going on in their mouths. If gingivitis is left untreated, things are going to get worse. When things get beyond the scope of home treatment, the inflammation, and resulting loss of connective tissue and bone, is known as periodontitis. Treatment for the more severe form of the gum disease tends to be a lot more invasive; however, the other option is usually losing your teeth and getting the nickname ‘gummy’.
- Gums that bleed easily
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste
- Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
- Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
Best Treatments for Periodontitis
Prevent periodontitis, if you can. You don’t want to be diagnosed with periodontitis. There really is no excuse anymore, that is unless you have some sort of genetic predisposition or disease. Brushing twice a day will help to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Brushing helps loosen food particles and reduce the biofilm that turns into plaque and tartar. You could also check out Electric Toothbrushes. They’re not cheap, but they’re not overly expensive in some options, like this Oral-B Rechargeable Toothbrush from Braun, at Amazon. Flossing daily is very important, as well. If you’ve never tried it, now’s the time. It’s not that hard, though it may be awkward at first. Bleeding gums will become less of a problem after a few weeks…they’ll get toughened up. If they’re still bleeding, though, after that time check with a dental professional.
Schedule regular checkups with your dentist. The fact of the matter is that there are parts of your mouth that you cannot see without a couple of small mirrors and the limbs of a contortionist. This means that you might be missing some obvious signs of gum disease. Also, part of a regular checkup usually includes a thorough cleaning. You know, the scraping under the gum line, the probing with medieval torture implements, the whir of the polishing wheel. Those tools can scrape off tartar and plaque buildup, which is the very thing that leads to periodontitis.
Medications can help with periodontitis. If you make a trip to a dentist and she mentions that you are showing the signs of advanced gingivitis or periodontitis, she may recommend that you add a medication to your daily oral hygiene regimen. A prescription strength mouthwash containing chlorhexidine is a common treatment. It’s used like a regular mouthwash, except it goes one step further to help destroy the microbial population in your mouth. There are other antibiotics that can be inserted below the gum line, but they are usually used in concert with a deeper cleaning called scaling and planing.
Scaling, Root Planing, and Debridement
If the level of dental calculus has grown too large inside your gums and you’ve started to lose a lot of connective tissue, your dentist might refer you to a periodontist (a teeth and gum specialist) to have this procedure done. Anesthesia may be necessary because it could get painful, or at the very least uncomfortable. Unfortunately, using specialized scraping tools to dig beneath your gums and remove the calcified tartar is the only way to prevent the tissue and bone (that hold your teeth inside your mouth) from forming large pockets, which can lead to loose teeth or even tooth loss. And tooth loss leads to banjos in the south. That’s never good.
Surgery is an option for very severe cases. If you have been to a periodontist and tried the deep cleaning methods and medications to no avail, then you may need surgery. Flap surgery involves opening up the gums on the pocket around your tooth and scraping the calcified plaque that is at the deepest point of your teeth. When your gums are sewn back up, this should help reduce the potential for losing your teeth. There are also bone grafts and implant surgeries that can prevent your teeth from falling out. As with any surgery, there are risks, and some downtime for recovery.
Periodontitis Health Risks
Aside from poor dental hygiene practices, it is possible that you have other factors that are contributing to your problems with periodontitis. Smoking makes treatment for periodontitis difficult and reduces your chances for recovery. Several diseases and their treatments can increase your risk of dental problems. Diabetes puts you at a greater risk for infections, including gum diseases. Immune suppression from diseases like AIDS or cancer can also make you more susceptible to periodontitis. Women who become pregnant or experience hormonal changes can also be at a greater risk of gingivitis and periodontitis. Unfortunately, there are also people who just have very poor dental genetics, and they can develop periodontitis and lose their teeth while in their teens.
Smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, puffing on a pipe, they can all lead to gum disease, not to mention oral cancer and other forms of cancer. Also, when you do try to treat periodontitis while still smoking, it is measurably more difficult to defeat the infection.
Gum massage might be an activity to do in private, having recently washed your hands. Giving your gums a good rub down helps keep blood flowing through the tissue and it also keeps you aware of the condition of your mouth.
A Change in Diet
Everyone jokes about eating too much candy leading to cavities, but there is some truth to it: the bacteria in your mouth love carbohydrates. The more they eat and multiply, the more acidic your mouth can become, which can harm your teeth. Those bacteria can also collect and calcify, causing plaque and tartar.