People who have been diagnosed by a dental professional as having periodontal disease must commit to periodontal maintenance in order to protect their dental and overall health. The objective of this maintenance program is to keep gum disease from advancing to a degree in which it overruns the gums and results in the loss of one or more teeth.
To better understand periodontal maintenance, a brief overview of periodontal disease is required. The condition, also referred to as gum disease, is essentially a persistent bacterial infection affecting the teeth and gums that cannot be fully reversed. People who have gum disease generally experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Bad breath
- Red and inflamed or puffy gums
- Tender gums
- Gums that bleed
- Receding gums
- Pus between the gums and teeth
- Pain with chewing
- Exposed tooth root surfaces
- Loose teeth
- Oral bone loss
Once a dentist confirms that a person does indeed have periodontal disease, action must be taken to prevent further damage to their oral health. One of the most common first steps in treating the disease is having a dental professional do a thorough cleaning (often referred to as a deep scale cleaning) that extends well beyond that of what is done at a regular cleaning appointment. Depending on the severity of the condition, a dentist may recommend periodontal surgery for the patient. After undergoing a dentist’s recommended form of treatment, patients are typically asked to follow up with periodontal maintenance.
What Is Periodontal Maintenance?
A patient receiving periodontal maintenance typically goes for treatments three or four times a year in which the dentist will perform the following:
- A physical examination that often includes x-rays to evaluate if or how far a patient’s gum disease has progressed since the last visit
- A process called scaling, which includes a thorough cleaning of the teeth to remove plaque and tartar
- The removal of bacteria and plaque from the gum line area and any pockets that may have developed between gums and the teeth
- The depths of pockets between the gums and teeth may be measured and irrigated with antiseptic medicine
- Root planing, or the smoothing of a tooth’s root to eliminate any bacteria left behind
- The affected areas could be tender and cause some discomfort so a dentist may use an antibiotic to treat the gum pockets and promote healing
These steps are designed to get rid of harmful bacteria and cut down on inflammation of the gums. In other words, it helps stop gum disease from progressing. However, the results are not permanent. Billions of microbes enter a human’s oral cavity every day, and with that the process starts over again. A patient who is not diligent about continuous periodontal maintenance will begin to see and feel the serious side effects of that decision and could eventually compromise their health.
Is Periodontal Maintenance the Same Thing as A Regular Teeth Cleaning?
While periodontal maintenance and regular teeth cleanings may sound somewhat similar, they are distinctly different.
Regular cleanings are recommended for patients every six months and may include x-rays, plaque removal, professional teeth cleaning, and flossing. The primary goal of these visits is to stay on top of a person’s oral health and to allow for early detection of cavities, gum disease, abscesses, and other problematic conditions.
Periodontal maintenance is not done solely as a preventative measure but in more of a reactive one because patients who require it have already received an official gum disease diagnosis from a dentist. As a reactive procedure, there can be a sense of urgency. Patients usually receive periodontal maintenance every three or four months. The primary goal of these treatments is to get control of infection and inflammation present in the gums and keep them in check.
What Can Happen Without Recommended Periodontal Maintenance
A patient who suspects they may have gum disease or has been told by a dentist they do, should follow up with a dental professional about the next step. Periodontal maintenance is not usually a mere suggestion. It is essential to stop infection and inflammation in its tracks.
Without receiving maintenance, the outcome could be unpleasant and possibly dire. Avoiding regular periodic visits to the dentist for periodontal maintenance allows infection and inflammation to flourish and spread to vulnerable gum tissue.
As often is with dental health, inflammation of the gums can impact the state of a person’s overall health and cause an inflammatory response elsewhere in the body. As the bacteria continues to thrive it will eventually attack the gum tissue and destroy the bone, which in turn allows teeth to shift or even fall out. As the disease progresses, bigger gaps can form between the teeth and the gums which results in the accumulation of more bacteria.
Ultimately, unchecked levels of bacteria in the teeth and gums could spread to a person’s bloodstream and lead to an infection in other parts of the body. Some studies have shown a possible correlation between gum disease and other conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
If you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms of gum or periodontal disease, make an appointment for a consultation with your Houston dentist today. After initially treating the condition, it’s important to follow through with regular periodontal maintenance. The steps you take now in safeguarding your dental health can provide quality of life dividends for tomorrow.