If you have receding gum tissue which is red and tender, you may be suffering from gingivitis, an inflammatory condition caused by excess plaque. Gingivitis can be a precursor to gum (periodontal) disease, a condition which can erode your gum tissue and bone support from your teeth.
One group of connective tissue fibers that can be affected by gum disease is the periodontal ligament (PDL). The PDL serves an important function, so you do not want gum disease to affect it.
What is the PDL’s Function?
Some people think that teeth are just held in place by gums and jawbones. While these structures do support the teeth, there is a soft tissue between tooth and bone which helps to retain teeth: the periodontal ligament. The PDL is made up of a lot of collagen fibers that connect the teeth roots to the jaw bone.
As well as retaining teeth in their sockets, the PDL is important because it absorbs and distributes pressure when you chew food. Your teeth have some mobility because of the PDL’s flexibility; in fact, orthodontic work is possible because of the PDL’s flexibility.
How Can You Protect the PDL from Damage?
You can protect the PDL by taking care of your gingivitis or gum disease. You will want to improve your brushing and flossing habits, and you will also want to visit your dentist for deep cleanings. Your dentist will measure your gum pockets to see the extent of the infection before they recommend a treatment course.
Here are a few ways your dentist can help you.
During a regular cleaning — known as a prophylaxis — your dentist will use scalers to remove built-up plaque on your enamel. However, if plaque has embedded itself around and in the gum line, your gums may be too inflamed and swollen for a standard prophylaxis. This is where a full-mouth debridement comes in.
During a full-mouth debridement, your hygienist will use an electric scaler to remove calculus, also known as tartar. Electric scalers use vibrations and water streams to break down difficult-to-reach calculus. Once this tartar is removed, your hygienist can clean your teeth with manual scaling. This is a great treatment option for gingivitis and early signs of gum disease.
Scaling and Root Planing
Like a full-mouth debridement, scaling and root planing (SRP) is a type of deep cleaning. Your dentist will use a curette to manually scale plaque that is below the gum line near the tooth roots. The goal of SRP is to remove bacteria out of gum pockets to eliminate recession and infection. Your hygienist often uses a local anesthetic during this procedure so that you are not uncomfortable when he or she cleans between the gumline.
Custom Nightguard Fitting
If you have fairly good oral hygiene, but you are still getting gingival recession, you may want your dentist to check your teeth for bruxism, or teeth grinding.
Bruxism not only causes microfractures on enamel, but it also causes receding gums — thus making it easier for bacteria to cause gingivitis, gum disease, and sensitivity. To prevent bruxism and gum recession, your dentist can fit you with a custom nightguard
Besides helping to prevent gum disease, a nightguard can also protect the PDL. While the PDL can adapt to grinding forces, it can become overly flexible under too much force, thus contributing to excessive tooth mobility. A nightguard can give the PDL time to heal from excessive forces.
Contact us at Silverstone Family Dental to learn more about how to treat gum disease and how to protect your periodontal ligaments.