Questions and Answers
about Gum Disease
1. Is gum disease hereditary?
As we had discussed under "Risk Factors", there is a hereditary component to gum disease. That does not mean that all people who are pre-disposed towards periodontitis will get it as severely as did their parent or parents. However, if you suspect that your parents lost all or most of their teeth, especially at an early age, you must be keenly aware that you may have a tendency to get gum disease more readily than someone who has poor oral hygiene but a good resistance to periodontitis.

2. If I have a hereditary predisposition towards gum disease, what should I be doing regarding the oral health of my children?
Under these circumstances, it is important to have the gum health of your children checked everytime that they see the dentist. In order to make sure that the dental office does not overlook the significance of this issue in your children, make sure that they know that you suspect a genetic predisposition towards periodontitis is in your "family tree" and you would like your child to have a thorough periodontal probing each time that they are in the office for a tooth cleaning -- which should be at least every 6 months.

As your children become adults, it is important that you impress upon them the need for frequent dental checkups and with a thorough periodontal probing. It may be even better if you incorporate an examination with a periodontist (the Gum Disease Specialists) for a periodontal exam for a "baseline records documention".

3. If my parents lost their teeth does that mean that I will lose mine?
No! Newer treatments and treatment understandings have evolved which allow periodontitis-disposed patients to improve their gum health and their chances of avoiding full dentures. However, if you do have a tendency towards periodontitis, it is absolutely necessary to see a periodontist before you become aware of loose teeth or bleeding gums. You may not become aware of these signs until the disease has progressed too far.

4. Can antibiotics be used to treat gum disease?
Antibiotics can be used in certain circumstances. Antibiotics can enhance the results of non-surgical root planing in some cases of aggressive disease. However, the same antibiotics taken without doing non-surgical root planing have been shown not to be of benefit.

The determination of when and how to use antibiotics for gum disease is one special service that your periodontist can help you with. Unnecessary or improper antibiotic therapy is of no benefit to you.

5. Can periodontitis be treated only with non-surgical root planing?
Some early forms of gum disease (gingivitis) are more receptive to non-surgical root planing. However, even in those cases that will need gum surgery, the amount and invasiveness of surgery can be reduced by first having thorough non-surgical root planing done.

We do see on occaision that patients have had root planing done with the general dentist and that some benefits have definitely been achieved. However, sometimes, the patients have not been advised that there are still residual problems which require some surgery to totally eliminate the gum infection that remains after the root planing was done.

6. Can I spread gum disease to my family?
It has been shown that gum disease transmission does occur between spouses or between a parent and child. However, there is more of a tendency for this to occur if all of the parties do not have a good resistance to gum disease. You can not transmit gum disease to another person on food utensils or toothbrushes.

If both spouses have aggressive gum disease and only one is treated, the untreated person may "re-infect" the treated spouse.

7. When gum surgery is done, it seems that the biggest complaint that I hear is of post-surgical pain and longer teeth. Why?
With any surgery there is pain. Patients vary regarding the amount of pain that they have. However, surgery done in the mouth is a sensitive issue. This is why it is important to have non-surgical therapy done wherever possible in order to reduce the amount of invasiveness of any surgery which will be needed.

The increase in tooth length and the presence of spaces between the teeth is the result of the amount of bone loss that had occurred before the treatment was done. The gum infection has destroyed some bone which had been a "foundation" for the gum tissue. When you lost the bone, the new gum level must be very close to the new bone level if the gum tissue is to be healthy. The periodontist doesn't have options regarding how much gum tissue to remove. Your bone loss level determines the position of the gum tissue.

8. How long will the benefits of treatment last?
The benefits of periodontal therapy are determined by the severity of your case before you were treated. If you have severe problems with many loose teeth, these teeth may not get much of a future. You should not invest much in teeth with a poor future. However, if your teeth still have good strength despite gum disease being present, there is no reason why you should not get excellent long term results if you properly take care of your mouth after your gum treatment.

9. What do I need to do in order to maintain good health after gum treatment?
You must clean your teeth efficiently on a daily basis. This means efficient brushing and flossing. Patients who brush many times a day, but not once efficiently are not cleaning their teeth.

Following the completion of gum treatment, it is usually established that you will have your teeth cleaned on a schedule of every 3 or 4 months. Usually these cleaning may be rotated between the office of your general dentist and your periodontist.

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