Who is your gum specialist?
Pearly white teeth set in healthy gums enhance your personality manifold. It is such an attribute that makes one smile confidently. A gum specialist or periodontist is a dentist who specialises in the gum, bone and the soft tissues that support and surround the teeth; and examines and treats all disorders and diseases of the gum.
Most of the gum diseases are due to our bad habits and lifestyle. People have no time for their oral health. For most of us brushing our teeth is a hurried affair. We do not change our tooth brush unless it begins to hurt. We are not known to brush our teeth after every meal either.
Smoking, tobacco chewing, consumption of aerated drinks, sticky foods, etc. are playing havoc with our oral health and hygiene. Some of the common gum diseases are as follows:-
- Bleeding, swollen red and tender gums,
- Loose or missing teeth,
- Food lodgement,
- Gradual increase in spaces between teeth,
- Bad breath and
- Gummy smile.
For an individual, it is important to know whether he/ she have gum disease or not.
Early signs of gum disease may manifest in the form of slight bleeding while brushing teeth or on biting into something solid or slight redness or inflammation of the gum. Symptoms of pyorrhoea like bad taste and bad breath may also be there. There is a possibility that you may not notice these symptoms in the initial stages.
Later symptoms and consequences that one may experience include abscess in the mouth, loose teeth and ultimately tooth loss. If you have a periodontal concern, a good person to consult is your family dentist, who will refer you to a periodontist, if needed.
The progression of gum and periodontal diseases is a slow process. Normally, it starts with the accumulation of dental plaque between and around the teeth. Plaque is a bio-film that accumulates naturally on the teeth. It is the by-product of the bacteria acting on the residual food substance left in the mouth.
When plaque is not removed adequately, it causes an accumulation of calculus, commonly called as tartar at the base of the teeth, near the gums. Calculus is harder to remove and can only be removed by a gum specialist.
Gum diseases may also have other causes, such as:-
Hormonal changes: It may occur during puberty, menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause. The gums may become more sensitive and raise the risk of inflammation.
Some diseases such as cancer, diabetes and HIV are linked to a
higher risk of developing periodontal diseases.
Drugs: Oral health may be affected by some medications, especially if the flow of saliva is reduced. Anti-epilepsy and some hypertension drugs may cause abnormal growth of the gum tissues.
Smoking: Regular smokers more commonly develop gingivitis as compared to non-smokers.
Family history: People whose parents have/had gum diseases, have a higher risk of getting it themselves.
There are a variety of treatments for gum disease ranging from non-surgical therapies that control bacterial growth to surgery to restore supportive tissues. It all depends on the stage of the disease and other health parameters of patient.
Treatments for gum disease that do not involve surgery are Scaling and root planning. This is a deep-cleaning, non-surgical procedure, done under a local anaesthesia. The plaque and tartar from the gum line is scraped away (scaling) and the rough spots on the tooth root are smoothened (planing). Smoothing the rough spots removes bacteria and provides a clean surface for the gums to reattach to the teeth.
Some treatments for gum disease are surgical, such as:
Flap /pocket reduction surgery: In this case the gums are lifted back and the tarter is removed. Irregular surfaces of the damaged bone are smoothened to limit areas where disease-causing bacteria can grow. The gums are then placed back so that the tissue fits snugly around the tooth. This method reduces the size of the space between the gum and tooth.
Bone grafts: It involves using fragments of the patient’s bone, or synthetic bone, or donated bone to replace damaged bone. The grafts serve as a platform for the regrowth of bone, which restores stability to teeth.
Soft tissue grafts: This procedure reinforces thin gums or fills in places where gums have receded by using grafted tissue, most often taken from the roof of the mouth.
Guided tissue regeneration: It is performed when the bone supporting the teeth has been destroyed; this procedure stimulates bone and gum tissue growth. Done in combination with flap surgery, a small piece of mesh-like fabric is inserted between the bone and gum tissue.
Bone surgery: It smoothens shallow craters in the bone caused by bone loss. Following flap surgery, the bone around the tooth is reshaped to reduce the craters.
In most of the patients, the non-surgical procedure of scaling and root planing is all that is needed to treat gum diseases. Surgery is needed when the tissue around the teeth is unhealthy and cannot be repaired with non-surgical options.
Gum disease manifest slowly over a period of time. Most of us do not take notice of the warning signs. That is why regular dental check-ups and periodontal examinations are very important for maintaining oral health and hygiene.
Good dental care at home is essential to help keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring. Brush your teeth twice a day, clean between your teeth daily, eat a balanced diet, and schedule regular dental visits to maintain a healthy smile.
Preserve your teeth, as long as you can. It is possible with regular oral care.
By Utkarsh Rathore