Having a great smile isn’t just about healthy, sparkling teeth. You also need good periodontal health. So, what exactly is periodontal health? Peri means around. Dont means tooth. What’s around each tooth? Your gums, of course. And if your gums aren’t healthy, your smile is at risk. Lots of people have one form of gum disease or another, about half of the population over age 30. Yet many don’t realize it, because there aren’t always obvious signs, particularly in people who smoke.
Even when signs of gum disease do become apparent, they are often ignored or considered no big deal. For example, if your gums bleed when you brush or floss, you most likely have a form if gum disease. Bleeding gums is a warning sign that bacterial plaque is building up on your teeth and that you need to spend a little more time on your oral hygiene, particularly flossing. To be safe, a professional dental cleaning and exam would also be helpful in this situation.
What if my gums are just a little red, swollen, or irritated? Does that mean it’s time for my dental checkup? Yes. It’s important to bring any early gum disease under control before you start to experience bone loss from around your tooth roots, which can cause your gums to gradually separate from your teeth. Your dentist can check whether this is happening by measuring little gaps between the tooth and gum called periodontal pockets. If pocketing is significant, you may need to have gum treatment, also called periodontal therapy. The goal of this treatment is to stop the progression of gum disease before it causes teeth to come loose or even fall out.
So what are my best options for treatment? There are two categories of periodontal therapy – nonsurgical and surgical. Nonsurgical therapy starts with a thorough professional cleaning of the tooth surfaces just below the gum line to remove disease-causing bacterial plaque and tartar. You may also be given topical antibiotics or antibacterial rinses to further cleanse the area. If gum disease is moderate to severe, periodontal surgery may be recommended. This treatment is often focused on rebuilding lost bone. Periodontal surgery is outpatient procedure performed in a dental office, usually under local anesthesia.
What can I do to maintain my periodontal health? You have a very important job to do at home. Keep up a thorough, effective oral hygiene routine. By staying on top of the situation and maintaining your periodontal health, you can look forward to a lifetime of strong teeth, healthy gums and beautiful smiles.