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How Does a Family Dentist Treat Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an extremely common condition that can be diagnosed and treated by a family dentist. Also called periodontal disease, this infection of the gums can negatively impact both the teeth and jawbone if left untreated.
Diagnosis and stages of gum disease
Healthy gums should look pink and fit firmly around the teeth. Gum disease often begins when plaque builds up and hardens around the teeth and below the gumline. This tissue can become infected slowly, so it is important to be assessed by a family dentist during biannual dental exams.
Diagnosis and symptoms of gum disease
A family dentist can assess gum health and diagnose gum disease by using a small probe to measure the depth of gum pockets. Healthy pockets should be less than 3 millimeters deep. These are other symptoms of gum disease that the dentist will look for:
- Red and swollen gums
- Sensitive teeth
- Gums that bleed easily when brushed or flossed
- Shifting or loose teeth
- Receding gums
- Persistent bad breath
Stages of gum disease
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gum disease affects approximately half of adults age 30 and older. The early stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis. During this stage, gums may bleed easily during brushing and flossing. Gingivitis can often be reversed by improving oral hygiene daily routines and regular cleanings from the family dentist.
Periodontitis is a more serious stage of gum disease that is characterized by the gums pulling away from the teeth to allow pockets to form. When gums reach the advanced periodontitis stage, the teeth can loosen and fall out as the bone support further deteriorates. The infected gums can become prone to oozing pus. This stage may require gum surgery and tooth extraction.
Gum disease treatment
A family dentist has a variety of non-surgical gum disease treatments available. The recommended course of action will depend on the stage of the disease.
Scaling is a deep-cleaning dental procedure where hardened plaque, called tartar, is carefully scraped off of teeth just under the gumline.
Root planing is often done in conjunction with scaling and involves using a curved instrument called a curette. The curette removes any diseased tissue from the exposed roots of the teeth. Root planing acts to reduce rough spots on the tooth, giving gums a smooth surface to reattach. This method also helps prevent future plaque buildup and reduces post-scaling irritation.
Family dentists can prescribe antibiotics in different forms such as in an oral rinse or medicated toothpaste. Sometimes the dentist will apply an antibiotic after scaling and root planing to speed healing and help gums re-form a tight seal around the teeth.
Maintaining healthy gums is essential to both oral and overall health, which is why it is important to have regular dental exams and cleanings. It is particularly important to consult with your family dentist if you notice any early signs of gum disease.
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