Periodontology, or periodontics, is the branch of dentistry that deals with the conditions that affect the supporting structures of the teeth, particularly the gums. The gingiva, more commonly called gums, is the soft skin that covers and supports the underlying bones of the teeth. The gums also function as a barrier against bacteria and infection.

The key to healthy gums is good oral hygiene. Maintaining the health of the gums is crucial to one’s overall health. In fact, studies have shown that those with poor gum health is at a higher risk for developing more serious conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and pregnancy complications.

Bad oral hygiene can lead to two main types of gum disease:

The mildest and most common type of gum disease, gingivitis is characterized by red, swollen gums that bleed easily, especially while brushing the teeth. Pain and discomfort are present, but they are very minimal. Gingivitis is reversible by simply adopting good oral hygiene practices such as brushing the teeth twice a day, flossing and going to the dentist regularly for check-ups.

If gingivitis goes untreated, it can develop into periodontitis, a serious gum infection that can lead to tooth loss. With periodontitis, plaque develops beneath the gum line, causing bacteria to irritate the gums, which, in turn, causes an inflammatory response. As a result of this inflammation, the gums pull away from the teeth, forming pockets that also become infected. If periodontitis is left untreated, the gums and other supporting structures are destroyed, and teeth become loose and may require extraction. Aside from good dental hygiene and more frequent visits to the dentist for deep cleaning, treatment for periodontitis may include surgery.

Gingivitis and periodontitis share similar symptoms, including red and swollen gums, bleeding gums, receding gums, bad breath, and loose or shifting teeth.

Depending on the severity of the gum disease, treatments vary:

  • Good oral hygiene – As mentioned earlier, the key to healthy gums is good oral hygiene. Practices such as brushing the teeth and flossing 2-3 times a day, visiting the dentist regularly and not smoking can help prevent gum disease and treat it in its early stages.
  • Mouthwash – If advised by the dentist, antiseptic mouthwash can be used to control plaque build-up and prevent bacterial infections.
  • Professional dental cleaning – Visiting the dentist once or twice a year (or more frequently as needed) is one of the best practices to maintain healthy gums. During such appointments, the dentist will remove plaque and tartar that have developed in the teeth and gums.
  • Scaling and root planing – Also known as deep cleaning, this involves removing plaque and tartar that have developed deep beneath the gumline (scaling) and smoothing rough spots on the teeth (planing). This is typically done under local anaesthetic.
  • Flap surgery – During this surgical procedure, the gums are lifted back or pulled up to remove the tartar underneath and smooth irregular surfaces to remove pockets where bacteria can develop and multiply. Afterwards the gums are stitched back in position around the teeth.
  • Bone grafts – This procedure involves taking fragments of the patient’s bone (or using donated or synthetic bone), and then using it to replace the bone that is damaged by gum disease.
  • Soft tissue grafts – This procedure involves taking grafted tissue from the roof of the mouth, and placing it in areas where the gums have thinned or receded.
  • Guided tissue regeneration – This procedure is recommended when the bone supporting the teeth has been destroyed. A mesh-like fabric is placed between the gum and damaged bone to prevent the gum from growing into the area where the bone should be.
  • Bone surgery – Where gum disease has led to bone loss, bone surgery is done to reshape the bone around the tooth, allowing the gum to fit back perfectly.

Both gingivitis and periodontitis can be prevented with good dental hygiene and regular dentist check-ups. For the best treatments and optimal results, make sure you go only to the best dental clinic in the Philippines.