Many patients receiving periodontal or implant dentistry have questions about their treatment. Dr. Robert Horowitz and our team have provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we encounter. If you have more questions, and to make your appointment at our practice, please contact our office at 914-723-3366.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is a degenerative condition that starts when plaque and tartar (calculus) are allowed to accumulate at the base of your teeth. The bacteria in the plaque leads to an infection in the gums called gingivitis. Gingivitis is the early state of periodontal disease, and is characterized by gums that are red, swollen, and bleed easily. Left untreated, the infection spreads to the tissue and bone the holds your teeth in place, a condition called periodontitis, or pyorrhea. Because of the bacterial infection associated with periodontitis, tooth abscesses are also a common feature of this disease.
What are the signs of periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is rarely painful, especially in the early stages of the disease. Some of the common signs of periodontal disease are:
- Gums that bleed when you brush or floss (healthy gums will not bleed)
- Gums that are red, swollen, or tender
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth (receded)
- Pus (infection) between the teeth and gums
- Loose permanent teeth or separating (drifting) teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Change in the fit of a partial denture
What are the dangers of periodontal disease?
Periodontal Disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults. More importantly, the infection releases toxins into the bloodstream leading to serious health risks, i.e., stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and spontaneous pre-term births.
- There is a growing body of scientific evidence suggesting possible links between periodontal disease and other systemic diseases such as diabetes and coronary artery disease.
- New scientific research indicates that bacteria may affect the heart. People with periodontal disease, a bacterial infection, may be more at risk for heart disease.
- While further research is needed, preliminary findings suggest that people with periodontal disease may be significantly more at risk for fatal heart attacks.
- More than 20% of Americans have heart disease. Please advise us of any medical conditions, including heart disease. Your periodontal health may affect your overall health.
- New research indicates that infections in the mouth, such as periodontal disease, may also be associated with increased risk of respiratory infection such as pneumonia and bronchitis. While further research is needed, you are well advised to maintain good periodontal health which is part of your overall health.
- Scientists have known for some time that people with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease. New research indicates a two-way connection: periodontal disease may make it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar.
- Additional studies are underway, but findings suggest that controlling periodontal disease may help people control diabetes.
- New evidence also suggests that pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be up to seven times more likely to have a baby that is born premature and at a low birthweight.
- Periodontal disease is an infection, and all infections are cause for concern among pregnant women because they pose a risk to the health of the baby.
- We advise all pregnant women — and all women of childbearing age — to come in for a periodontal screening examination. Although the possible links between periodontal disease and premature, low birth weight babies is still not fully understood, we want to do our part to keep mother and baby as healthy as possible.
- The bacteria that cause periodontal disease are not confined to the mouth. They are carried throughout the blood stream and have the potential to cause health problems that appear in other parts of the body. Please feel free to ask us if you have any questions about the potential links between periodontal disease and other systemic diseases.
Is there a cure for gum disease?
Periodontal disease is treatable and preventable. In the early stages, it can be reversed. In later stages of the disease we can work to help you reduce and manage the disease, but it is unlikely that it will ever be completely eradicated from your mouth. Our practice will provide you with professional care in our office and instructions on proper home care, and will work with your general dentist to help you achieve an optimal level of oral health.
Can anything be done about receding gums or “long” teeth?
We are concerned foremost with your health. However, some of the procedures we perform are intended not only to control disease, but to provide you with a cosmetic benefit. Some patients may look older than their years because their teeth appear to be too long (“long in the tooth”). Soft tissue grafts and other root coverage procedures are designed to cover exposed roots and make the teeth look much better.
When gum tissue recedes due to periodontal disease, it pulls away from the teeth. Periodontal plastic surgery procedures can restore some coverage and dramatically improve a person’s smile.
Soft tissue grafts and other root coverage procedures cover exposed roots and restore healthy gum tissue. This will reduce further bone loss and recession, make the tooth less sensitive, protect the root from root cavities, and look more natural when you smile.
What are dental implants?
A dental implant is a titanium post that is surgically placed in the jaw to replace one or multiple missing teeth. Implants can replace a single tooth, multiple teeth, or all your missing teeth. Dental implants are used to replace teeth lost due to tooth decay, periodontal (gum) disease, or trauma. Dental implant can last a lifetime. Even though implants cannot develop decay like natural teeth, they require proper care and cleaning to achieve the longevity of natural teeth. More than 9 out of 10 implants last longer than 15 years.
Why are implants so popular and the first choice for and by patients?
A dental implant, in the simplest of terms, is a replacement for the root of your tooth. There is never anything like the original tooth, but an implant-supported tooth comes as close as possible to your own tooth. By placing an implant in your mouth, your bone thinks the tooth is still there and will continue to grow and maintain a strong and healthy foundation. Bone loss can lead to a variety of complications or a requirement for more extensive care for many patients, instead of simple maintenance visits with your dentist and hygienist.
What is bone grafting?
Bone grafting is a procedure used to replace missing bone or gum tissue. There are two types of tissue in the mouth. One surrounds the necks of the teeth and is thick and protective in nature. The other lines the cheeks and floor of the mouth and is elastic and mobile. Bone grafting is used to replace or augment the bone around the teeth, improving the appearance of your teeth and making it easier to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Bone grafting also reverses the tissue loss and damage caused by the removal or loss of teeth, periodontal disease, trauma, and poorly fitted oral appliances. It can also help prepare you to receive a dental implant, and to enhance the appearance of an extraction site.
What can be done about my “gummy” smile?
Some people have teeth that look “too short” due to the relationship between their teeth and gums. Patients with “gummy” smiles can receive a procedure called gum contouring to remove the excess gum tissue and expose more of the crown of their teeth. In fact, our periodontist can sculpt your gum line to create the perfect proportion between gum tissue and your tooth surfaces, giving you a healthier and more attractive smile. Gum contouring can also smooth and balance the way your teeth and gum look if the gum around a tooth is uneven, producing a consistent, even gum line.