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Periodontal Disease, an entirely preventable condition

Did you know…….that severe gum disease, called periodontal disease, is an entirely preventable condition? While many believe that they “inherited” bad teeth or bad gums from their parents, genetics actually play very little, if any, role in the development of this devastating disease. So, what is the cause? Short answer: plaque. Periodontal disease sets in after a period of time during which complete removal of plaque through tooth-brushing and flossing on DAILY basis has not occurred or wasn’t possible due to old and ill-fitting restorations. The plaque that has begun to form on the teeth and all the nooks and crannies in between will only take 48 hours to transform itself into calculus, or tartar. This calculus is there to stay until your hygienist can take their specialized instruments and remove it professionally. Otherwise, this calculus and its anaerobic environment becomes a perfect breeding ground for bacteria that in essence begins to infect your gum tissue. That in turn will launch an immune response as your body is desperately trying to neutralize this infection. However, as long as the calculus is present, your body’s defense mechanism is nothing but a futile effort.

This infection becomes chronic in nature and with time it will begin to destroy the gum and bone tissue around your teeth. During this time there is little to no discomfort and the only clue to you may be slight bleeding when brushing or persistent bad breath. As your teeth continue to loose the gum tissue and the supporting bone you may begin to notice your teeth shifting out of alignment and/or you may detect a mobility or “looseness” of your teeth. At this point it may be too late to save your teeth as the disease has destroyed too much of their support. Removable dental appliances or implants may become your only option to restore your smile and function. Of course, the ideal situation would be that you don’t find yourself at this junction to begin with. So, how do you prevent this disease? Many people don’t realize that regular complete removal of calculus by your hygienist is all it takes! In other words, getting your professional dental cleanings at recommended intervals will save your teeth and dental health from catastrophic failure.

Here is how it works: For patients who present themselves with only a mild condition called gingivitis, a simple cleaning called prophylaxis on annual or semi annual basis is all that is needed to maintain your dental health. We also make sure we send you home with complete understanding of what your home care should be in between appointments to help you maintain your dental health. For patients that have already developed mild to moderate periodontal disease we customize a treatment plan that will begin with approximately two sessions of scaling and root planning, also known as “deep cleaning” in layman terminology. This procedure entails local anesthesia to ensure complete and comfortable removal of calculus from all the root surfaces. Next session will involve an assessment of your healing results which will determine the frequency of so-called “periodontal maintenance” cleanings. Depending on the severity of the disease and tissue destruction, this maybe recommended at 3 or 4 month intervals. For patients that present themselves with moderate to severe periodontal disease or for those that do not respond to conventional non-surgical gum therapy referral to a specialist, called Periodontist, will be necessary. The Periodontist will employ surgical techniques to correct gum and bony defects resulting from the infection. What you should know is that none of the aforementioned procedures will be as costly and burdensome as loosing your teeth entirely. So, if you want to keep your teeth nice and working properly see your Dentist and Hygienist regularly! Stay tuned to find out about systemic health risks and untreated periodontal disease!

Sincerely, Dr. Mallery

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