My dentist told me I have gum disease. He gave me a short explanation, but I don’t really understand. Can you cure periodontal disease?
Carol in Atlanta
Periodontal disease can be prevented and successfully treated. And while there is currently no “cure,” non-surgical gum treatment and professional periodontal maintenance can help you live without further damage or negative consequences.
Periodontal disease has many stages, and without knowing what stage you are in, it will be difficult to pinpoint you most need to know. But an overview of the progression of the disease and an explanation of current non-surgical treatment and periodontal maintenance should give you an idea of what you might expect.
In general, if you have periodontal disease, it’s a good idea to talk over treatment options with your dentist or to seek out a well-trained and experienced periodontist, who will have the qualifications and equipment to provide the most effective treatment.
Long before periodontal disease causes any damage to our teeth and their surrounding structures, lack of basic dental hygiene like regular brushing and flossing can lead to gingivitis, or infection of the gums. This can easily be treated with a good, professional cleaning and follow-up care.
When plaque is allowed to stay on the teeth and build up, however, it hardens into tartar, which causes inflammation of the gums. The gums withdraw, compromising the tooth root and the surrounding bone structure, as shown in the diagram to the left.
At this point periodontal disease is well established, undermining the health of our teeth and possibly also contributing to other health conditions. At this level, it is called periodontitis, and if left untreated, it will eventually dissolve away so much of the surrounding soft tissue and bone structure that teeth will become loose and fall out. This condition is the reason most adults begin to lose teeth as they age.
Treatment for periodontitis usually begins with scaling and root planing, a procedure that used to involve surgical techniques and call for a long healing process. Non-surgical periodontal treatment uses advanced instruments like a perioscope and a dental laser. The perioscope is a high-tech camera that allows the periodontist to see the extent of inflammation and damage that has taken place below the gum line. And dental lasers now make it possible to remove damaged soft tissue and bone without surgery, using both heat and water for a painless procedure.
Once the initial treatment has been accomplished, you will need to continue with ongoing periodontal maintenance. You will have to have professional periodontal cleanings more than just twice a year, and you’ll need to be much more vigilant with your regular brushing and flossing. But the good news is that once treated and with ongoing maintenance, you can enjoy a health smile for the rest of your life.
Good luck to you in finding the best treatment for your dental health.
This blog is brought to you by Dr. David Pumphrey of Pumphrey Periodontics in Atlanta.