Diagnosed With Periodontal Disease: Now What?
Being told by a dentist that you have periodontal disease can be a startling experience. Usually there is no pain and, until teeth become loose, there are few symptoms. Your dentist can make the diagnosis bases on dental x-rays which can show bone loss and clinically by looking for periodontal pockets between the gums and the teeth. Advanced periodontal disease cannot really be cured. Generally, once supporting jaw bone is lost, it will not grow back. There is a lot, however, that we can do to help stop the disease from progressing.
Schedule Your Root Planing and Scaling
The first step to managing your periodontal disease will often be a non-surgical gum treatment known as root planing and scaling. During this procedure, you will be numbed so that a hygienist, dentist, or periodontist can use special instruments to thoroughly clean underneath your gum line. The goal of root planing and scaling is to remove plaque and tartar that has built up and become inaccessible with just standard teeth-cleaning.
Often times, dentists will recommend that you complete your root planing and scaling in two sessions: one side of your mouth in one session and the other side during the next session. This way, you don't need to have your entire mouth numbed at once. Some patients elect to be sedated to have the entire procedure completed in one relaxing visit.
Follow Up With Regular Maintenance Cleanings
After your root planing and scaling procedure, you'll probably find that your gums look and feel a lot healthier. The swelling and redness should subside, and your gums probably won't bleed as easily as they used to--especially when brushing and/or flossing.
Your treatment doesn't end here, however. Even once root planing and scaling is over with, you will need to see your dentist for periodontal maintenance cleanings from this point on--and probably for the rest of your life. Generally, maintenance cleanings are recommended every three to four months and involve a deeper cleaning than your traditional teeth cleaning. Keeping up with these appointments will be key managing your periodontal disease, so make them a priority.
Focus on Your Overall Dental Health Habits
Finally, there are some steps you can take at home when it comes to managing your periodontitis. Specifically, if you weren't taking the time to floss regularly before your diagnosis, now is the time to start. In addition, flossing at least once a day and brushing your teeth at least twice a day will help to keep your gums nice and healthy. Are you a smoker? Time to stop! Smoking makes you more prone to periodontal disease. Be sure to replace your toothbrush with a new one at least once every few months.
Managing your periodontal disease will take some effort on your part, but it will be more than worth it when you have the best chance of being able to keep your teeth for a lifetime.
Peter J. Samuels, DDS is a local Gettysburg dentist and a clinical instructor at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.