Periodontics in La Jolla, CA
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is an infection in the gums and bones surrounding the teeth. When untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss, so it’s important to know the signs of gum disease and the steps to take if you have it. Thankfully, early diagnosis of gum infections allows for more proactive treatments to help save your smile. Harmony Dental Group offers a comprehensive care plan for anyone with gum disease, reducing your risk of tooth loss.
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What is a Periodontist? What do Periodontists Do?
A periodontist is a dental specialist who specializes in the treatment of gum disease and is a highly qualified expert-level dentist. They provide the expertise needed when an individual has advanced gum disease and they are experiencing tissue loss. In addition to traditional deep cleanings, a periodontist also offers a wide range of surgical procedures like bone grafts for more advanced stages of the disease.
Do I Need to See a Periodontist?
A dentist may refer a patient to a periodontist if the gum disease is very advanced and doesn’t respond to conventional therapy or if the patient has medical risk factors that pose a health risk. In most situations, mild to moderate gum disease is treated in your general or family dentist’s office, with isolated or advanced areas of severe infection being referred to a specialist.
Because periodontists have access to more advanced resources for treating periodontal disease, they can offer proven results and adjunctive therapies that may not be accessible in a traditional family dental office.
What is Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease)?
Gum disease (periodontal disease) is caused by bacteria that accumulate under the gum tissues and trigger an immune response. Inflammation, redness, and bleeding are common. This infection can cause gum tissues and bone to separate from the teeth, which can eventually lead to tooth loss.
The most common symptoms of gum disease include:
- Bad breath
- Red or swollen gums
- Bleeding or tender gums when you brush or floss
- Pain when chewing food
- Loose teeth
- Gum recession
- Spaces between teeth
- “Pockets” under the gum tissue
- Heavy tartar buildup
Although most of us think of periodontal disease as only affecting our smiles, it’s also closely linked to heart, lung, and reproductive health. Active oral infections can easily allow bacteria to spread into the bloodstream and lungs, posing a risk to your immune system and overall wellness.
Stages of Gum Disease
Caught in its earliest stages, gum infections like gingivitis are reversible. But the longer they go unaddressed, the more likely you are to experience tooth and bone loss.
The first stage of gum disease is a reversible condition called gingivitis. Gingivitis simply refers to the inflammation of gum tissues. Normally symptoms include swelling, redness, and occasional bleeding in the edges of the gums closest to the teeth.
Gingivitis is completely reversible with good home care and routine dental cleanings.
Early to Moderate Periodontitis
Untreated gingivitis will eventually lead to bacterial deposits under the gum tissues, which trigger gum detachment and associated bone loss (creating “pockets” under the gums.) Bone loss is usually noticed during your dental and periodontal exam or on your most recent X-rays.
Treatment for mild to moderate periodontitis usually involves a deep cleaning to remove bacteria and establish a healthy oral environment that can be preserved between checkups.
Aggressive, chronic gum disease causes tooth mobility, severe bone loss, and—unless treated promptly—tooth loss. Most advanced cases of periodontal disease are referred to a periodontist for management.
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Types of Periodontal Treatments Available
Non-surgical periodontal treatment is usually the first option for managing gum disease. But the more aggressive the condition becomes, the more likely additional therapies will be needed to prevent tooth loss.
During a deep cleaning, a periodontist, dentist, or hygienist will use an instrument called a scaler to remove plaque and tartar buildup under the gum tissues (on the surfaces of tooth roots.) Deep cleanings are usually performed using local anesthetic to numb the teeth being cleaned. In most cases, half of the mouth is cleaned at a time, allowing for a 1-2 week period between appointments.
Because preventative cleanings are inadequate for treating gum disease, this deep cleaning targets the infection at its source. In most cases, the majority of periodontal patients only receive a deep cleaning and do not need additional treatments other than modified home care.
Flap Surgery or Pocket Reduction
If you have advanced periodontal disease, your dentist or La Jolla periodontist might suggest flap surgery. This procedure involves retracting the gum tissues to access severe, deep areas of infection. The specialist will then close the flap back over the tooth and suture it in place for healing and reattachment.
Pocket reduction surgery also involves adjustments to the gum tissue around infected teeth. By removing diseased tissues and reducing the height of the gums around teeth, the infected “pocket” is shortened and, thereby, easier to clean each day. This procedure is also called “crown lengthening.”
Bone and/or Soft Tissue Grafting
When a tooth is at risk because of inadequate bone or gum support, our La Jolla dentist may recommend adding a graft. Grafts place new bone or synthetic bone into the area around the tooth, offering structural support. Whereas soft tissue (gum) grafts cover exposed root surfaces, protecting them against bacteria and sensitivity.
Other Adjunctive Treatments
Depending on who you see for periodontitis treatment, laser pocket disinfection is another adjunctive procedure that could be useful. Using soft tissue laser technology, infected tissues are removed while healthy ones are stimulated to reattach to your tooth surface.
Locally placed antibiotic therapy may also be recommended. These small capsules are slipped under the gum tissues in areas of advanced periodontitis to help improve healing following a deep cleaning appointment.
Harmony Dental Group offers the comprehensive dental care you need to restore the health and function of your gums.
Periodontal Treatment in La Jolla
If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease, contact our La Jolla dentist today. Untreated, periodontal infections can pose a risk to your overall health, too. Call Harmony Dental Group to reserve your next periodontal assessment and discuss your treatment options.
Questions Answered on This Page
- What is a Periodontist? What do Periodontists Do?
- Do I Need to See a Periodontist?
- What is Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease)?
- Stages of Gum Disease
- Types of Periodontal Treatments Available
Definition of common periodontitis terminology
Periodontics: Periodontics is a dental specialty involving different oral structures especially the gums, teeth, and bones.
Bone Graft: A dental bone graft is a procedure to add more bone in a part of the jaw where bone has been lost or where additional support is needed.
Tartar: Tartar is a hard yellowish substance that forms on your teeth and causes them to decay if it is not removed.
Periodontal Surgery: Periodontal surgery is a dental procedure to restore the look and function of teeth, gums, and bone damaged due to severe gum disease.
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