What is gum disease?
Periodontal or gum disease is an infection of the gum, bone and surrounding structures of the teeth caused by the bacteria found in plaque. It is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, and can cause halitosis (bad breath), bleeding gums, mobile teeth, and a displeasing smile for some. Gum disease is progressive and cyclical, and often painless-so you may not even be aware you have it or that it is active again. There is no cure for gum disease, however with treatment the disease can be halted and arrested. Gum diseases shares many risk factors and is associated with various diseases such as diabetes, adverse pregnancy outcomes, rheumatoid arthritis and certain cancers.
How is it caused?
When plaque (the white, sticky film that naturally grows on our teeth), is missed by our toothbrush or floss, the bacteria it houses start to release harmful toxins which causes an inflammatory response of the gingiva (gum). This gum inflammation is known as gingivitis. At this stage you may notice your gums look red, swollen and may bleed when you brush or floss; this is the first phase of gum disease. Adequate homecare and regular professional treatment with one of our hygienists can reverse gingivitis and prevent further progression.
However, if that plaque is not removed routinely, it starts to absorb mineral from our saliva, and calcifies and hardens on the surfaces of our teeth above and below the gumline. This is known as tartar or calculus. Calculus is porous, and harbours bacteria which starts to breakdown the fibres and tissues surrounding the teeth. Over time this breakdown leads to periodontal pocketing, bone loss, attachment loss, mobility and eventually tooth loss. This is now termed periodontitis.
Treatment options for periodontitis will vary depending on the stage and severity of the gum disease.
What are my treatment options?
- Non-surgical/Initial phase therapy
At your first visit your gum diseases will be mapped and documented precisely so we can track its progression and response to treatment. This is carried out by either of our two highly skilled hygienists, Katie or Laura. Once the gums have been mapped, the mouth will be thoroughly cleaned over two appointments where we focus on one side of the mouth at a time. During these appointments, the soft and hard bacterial deposits will be removed above and below the gumline with specialised instruments. In some patients local anaesthetic will be used to keep the procedure comfortable and painless. Homecare instructions will be tailored to you, to ensure you are confident and competent to maintain your healthy teeth and gums in between appointments.
In the majority of cases we can get a fantastic result with non-surgical treatment. However, if the gum disease has progressed to a later stage and there is more drastic bone loss, it may require minor surgery to clean the teeth affected. This is carried out by Dr Sheng Zhang who is highly trained in surgical management of gum disease. He utilises the most modern state of the art techniques to clean the teeth. He is also passionate about Periodontal Regeneration of lost gum and bone around the tooth. Regeneration is at the frontier of gum disease treatment as it is the only method to undo the damage of periodontitis. Dr Sheng Zhang trained in Italy with some of most famous regenerative gum specialists in the world and looks forward to bringing these advanced techniques to you in Auckland.
Long term maintenance
A patient with gum disease is a gum disease patient for life. Genetics and lifestyle, especially tobacco smoking make up a significant portion of the risk profile for a gum disease patient. The inability to change some of these risk factors means that home hygiene can only go so far to maintain the gum health. Long term studies following patients for decades have shown that hygiene appointments 3-4 times a year is the most effective way to supplement meticulous home care and keep gum disease at bay. Our hygienists Katie and Laura are experts at maintaining your gum health and passionate about maintaining your natural teeth for life. They take great pride in mapping your gums every year to ensure they are in tip top shape.