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Protect Your Gums. Protect Your Health

Periodontal disease (also known as gum disease) is actually the most common dental problem in the entire world. Early symptoms include red, swollen, and tender gum tissue that also tends to bleed after brushing and flossing. If these symptoms are left untreated, this infection can eventually lead to tooth loss! At Harrisonburg Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, we take the health of our patients' gums very seriously. If our team finds any signs of this disease, we can quickly treat it using a range of treatments known as periodontal therapy.

What is Gum Disease?

There are multiple stages of gum disease ranging from mild to severe. As harmful bacteria builds on the teeth and around the gum line, it can cause inflammation, bleeding, and tenderness to occur within your gums.

What can start as gingivitis, which can be easily reversed with a thorough dental cleaning and consistent oral hygiene habits practiced at home, can quickly escalate to periodontitis. This is when the gums begin to pull away from the teeth and infection can occur. If left untreated, plaque will spread further down into the gums and lead to bone and tooth loss, as well as potential health-related problems and conditions, such as heart disease and neurological disorders.

Signs of Gum Disease

Some of the most common signs associated with gum disease include:

  • Red, puffy, tender gums
  • Inflamed or bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Gums that are receding
  • Deep pocket formations between your teeth and gums
  • Shifting or loose teeth
  • Changes in your bite

Treatment Options for Gum Disease

A bloodied toothbrush Although symptoms can be subtle, it is best if you begin to notice any changes that you call our office immediately. One of our qualified dentists will be able to examine your teeth and gums to determine if periodontal therapy is necessary. Fortunately, while some cases of gum disease are irreversible, we can prevent the problem from worsening and give your gums a better chance at improved health. Some of the treatment methods used to help our patients include:

Scaling and Root Planing

If a patient is showing signs of early-stage gum disease (called periodontitis) we’ll first try to treat it using something called a “deep cleaning,” which actually consists of two separate procedures known as scaling and root planing.

With scaling, your dentist will use small tools to gently break up and clear away plaque and tartar deposits located near and underneath your gum line. Then, root planing will be used to gently smooth out the rough surfaces of your teeth’s roots. This will make it much harder for plaque to accumulate on them in the future, which means you'll be less likely to develop serious gum disease again. Depending on the extent of a patient’s infection, an entire deep cleaning can typically be completed in about one to four appointments. Before beginning, your dentist will thoroughly numb the area with local anesthesia to make sure you are comfortable the entire time.

ARESTIN® Antibiotic Treatment

After your deep cleaning, our dentists may choose to apply a topical antibiotic to your gums in order to further fight the infection. Bacteria associated with gum disease will typically gather and multiply in the small spaces between your gums and teeth, which are known as periodontal pockets. While scaling and root planing can eliminate much of this bacteria, the treatment may not be able to reach all of it if the periodontal pocket is deep enough. That’s where antibiotic treatment comes in.

Your dentist or hygienist will apply the wax-like substance directly to your infected gums, which is made of thousands of tiny micro-spheres. Each of these micro-spheres is filled with a powerful anti-microbial agent. This will slowly dissolve over the next seven days so that it can reach the deepest bacterial accumulations. Between this, your deep cleaning, and diligent brushing and flossing at home, our patients should see complete relief from your gum disease.

How to Maintain Gum Health

A woman flossing her teeth

To prevent your gums from ever experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is advised that you follow these tips to maintain proper gum health:

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to brush your teeth twice a day for two full minutes. You’ll want to turn the brush to a 45-degree angle and use a circular motion to clean the entire surface of your tooth and gum line.
  • Talk to your dentist about the right type of toothpaste to combat gum disease and use it daily.
  • Floss gently between your teeth after every meal.
  • Rinse with an antimicrobial mouthwash.
  • Avoid sugary or starchy foods, as they can cause harmful bacteria to feed and burrow into the crevices of your teeth, resulting in tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Maintain your regularly scheduled appointments with your dentist. The typical timeline is every six months; however, for periodontal patients, it is necessary to meet with us more frequently.

Periodontal Disease FAQs

Frequently asked questions about periodontal therapy

Although half of Americans have gum disease, it’s normal to have several questions about the infection and the road ahead. You’re going to need periodontal therapy to restore your gum health. We’ll explain everything during your consultation to ease any apprehensions. While you wait for your visit, here are the answers to a few frequently asked questions.

What does gum disease look like?

The early signs of gum disease, called gingivitis, are often attributed to brushing or flossing too aggressively. However, red, swollen, and bleeding are red flags. Although the early symptoms might not appear concerning, the infection will continue to wreak havoc on your smile. Over time, you can develop chronic bad breath, gum recession, pus pockets near the roots, and tooth sensitivity. In advanced cases, your teeth can shift from position, loosen, or fall out.

Can gum disease be cured?

With early intervention, gingivitis can be reversed without causing any long-term damage to your smile. Often, a deep cleaning is all that’s needed to resolve the issue. If you don’t get the care you need, the infection will spread into your surrounding tissues, which can cause irreversible complications, like tooth loss. If the infection reaches advanced stages, you’ll require a more aggressive treatment plan to reinstate your gum health and repair any damage.

Are periodontal issues genetic?

Gum disease is caused by bacteria found in plaque and tartar buildup. Although it’s often the result of poor oral hygiene habits, other factors can contribute to the infection, like your genetics. Some people have a higher risk for gum disease because of their family history. Your dentist can create a personalized plan to help safeguard your gum health. While you can’t change your DNA, you can take several steps to lower your risk of the infection, like brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist twice a year for a cleaning and checkup.

Does gum disease hurt?

You may notice your gums are a little tender when brushing and flossing your teeth, but your discomfort can increase as the infection progresses. Besides sore gum tissue, you might also develop tooth sensitivity or pain when biting and chewing. Your dentist can stop your discomfort with periodontal therapy.

Are "deep cleanings" covered by insurance?

Although every policy differs, dental insurances almost always cover periodontal therapy. Most insurance companies cover 2 deep cleanings per year. After a copayment, you’ll enjoy 100% coverage. We know dental insurance can be confusing, but you don’t have to navigate your policy alone. A member of our team will work on your behalf with your insurance company to maximize your annual benefits. Besides deep cleanings, you can also use your policy to offset the cost of restorative procedures necessary to repair any damage caused by the infection. After reaching your annual deductible, your coverage can pay up to 80% of the cost until hitting your yearly limit. If there’s any out-of-pocket expense, we’ll explain your payment options to find the solutions you need to keep a healthy smile within your budget.