The best way to prevent gum disease is through good oral hygiene, begun at a young age—the earlier, the better. By properly caring for your teeth and gums, you fight the damage that bacteria and plaque can cause in your mouth. Just a few minutes of prevention a day can save you from costly and painful consequences later!
Other important steps towards prevention include the following:
- Physical and Emotional Health – Taking care of your body reaps many rewards, not least of which is a decreased risk of gum disease. According to one recent study, you do your gums a favor by maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly: these activities are not only good for your overall health but also lower your chances of periodontal disease.
- Regular Dental Visits – Along with regularly flossing and brushing your teeth, an important part of good oral hygiene is regular dental visits. Your dentist will be able to probe gums, look for early signs of inflammation, and perform x-rays to measure bone loss.
- Awareness of Family History – Because genetics play such a big role in periodontal disease, if you have siblings with gum disease or if your parents lost their teeth or suffered from gum disease at a young age, you need to be especially vigilant.
- Vitamins – Good nutritional intake of vitamins such as C and D can help prevent periodontal disease. Calcium also, according to one recent study, is an important and beneficial nutrient: a low intake of calcium results in more serious gum disease.
Time and research have shown there’s no magic pill or wonder drug to treat gum disease. Because it stems from bacteria residing in plaque and calculus, we need to manually remove the plaque and calculus (tartar) in order to remove the damage. Lasers are increasingly being used to aid in removal of bacteria and plaque from the mouth. Additionally, medicinal rinses and antibiotics can aid in controlling the level of bacteria in the mouth.
Depending on the severity, treatment for gum disease can be non-surgical or surgical. In non-surgical treatment, the teeth are thoroughly cleaned beneath the gum-line. The goal here is to reduce the plaque and bacteria and allow for proper healing. Lasers can be used to aid in disinfecting the gum pockets, and antibiotics or disinfectants can be placed beneath the gum line. Using modern technology, many patients avoid the more invasive gum surgery. In traditional gum surgery, the gums are separated from the teeth with a scalpel and the roots are cleaned. Stitches are used to place the gums back in place. Unfortunately, this invasive method is still being used by many dentists to treat patients that would respond well to non-surgical laser treatment. In our opinion, traditional gum surgery should be reserved ONLY for extremely severe cases or where non-surgical methods have not been successful.
Laser treatments offer a modern, gentler alternative in treating gum disease. Unlike the invasive and uncomfortable option of surgery, lasers cause less bleeding, swelling, and pain; plus, when combined with scaling and root planning, they can be very effective.
One exciting laser option is Deep Pocket Therapy (DPT) with New Attachment™ using the Waterlase MD™ laser and Radial Firing Perio Tip™. Minimally invasive and cleared by the FDA, this therapy treats moderate to advanced periodontitis. It’s especially effective at removing subgingival inflamed tissue and calculus, preparing those areas for healing and new attachment.
Research shows that the Er,Cr:YSSG laser energy of the Waterlase MD in particular provides exciting new treatment options for restorative dentistry and surgical procedures. In a recent study, 49 pediatric patients underwent restorative procedures or oral surgery done with an Er,Cr:YSSG laser, and none of them needed local anesthesia. Yet reducing pain levels is obviously not only beneficial for pediatric dental patients but also adults. Contrasted with surgery, laser treatments offer a much more comfortable experience.
When Bernard remembers going to the dentist as a child, he remembers the smell of Novocain and the sound of a drill, both of which still make him nervous today. The first oral surgery he had was the traditional “scalpel” kind—painful and scary, leaving him nervous about the dentist even later in life. That’s why he was so surprised by his recent experience with laser treatment: It was a total contrast. He hardly felt any pain at all!
The hot topic in periodontology today is inflammation. Linked with all kinds of diseases, from Alzheimer’s to diabetes, inflammation is also associated with gum disease, which is essentially chronic inflammation caused by oral bacteria. Periodontal disease increases inflammation in the body, elevating the C-reactive protein, which in turn increases risk for other health conditions as serious as heart disease.
Gum Disease & Inflammation
The connection between gum disease and inflammation is an important one. It means that blood markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein can be used as markers for gum disease. It also means treating gum disease to reduce the C-reactive protein may indirectly treat other inflammation-based conditions.