As with any disease, there are levels of treatment for periodontal disease, more commonly known as gum disease. But if cleanings and antibiotics don’t solve the problem, gum disease can advance and worsen such that surgery may be necessary to stop the progression of the disease and save your teeth.
Not only is gum surgery an expensive and unpleasant experience, but the bacteria may also reestablish itself post-surgery, requiring more treatments. Luckily, researchers in Australia have been developing a better solution.
Gum Disease is Widespread
Following the oral hygiene practices your dentist recommends can prevent plaque from building up. But if that plaque hardens, it can form tartar, which only a dental professional can remove. That tartar can in turn cause inflammation in your gums, which is the first sign of gum disease.
Studies have shown that a staggering half of adult Americans suffer from gum disease, and in adults 70 and older, that number skyrockets to 70%. The early stages of gum disease, such as gingivitis, can generally be reversed with better brushing and flossing and regular cleanings with your dentist. But untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis, which is significantly more difficult to treat and can result in damage to the bone and connective tissues of your teeth.
If you have late-stage gum disease, the only way to kick infection may be flap surgery, and depending on how much bone and tissue loss you have experienced, your dentist may also recommend bone or tissue grafts.
Vaccine Could Save Us From Surgery
Needless to say, reducing or eliminating the need for these surgical treatments is a high priority for dental scientists! A team at the University of Melbourne has been working for 15 years to develop a vaccine for chronic periodontitis — and they’re almost there!
Here’s how the vaccine works: It identifies and targets enzymes that are produced by a specific pathogen that causes gum disease. This then triggers an immune response, essentially training your body to fight off the disease by itself. Not only will this perform the job that antibiotics can only sometimes complete, but it will help fight the disease into the future, while current treatments would need to be repeated in case the disease recurs.
While the vaccine may not completely eliminate the need for other treatments for gum disease, it would certainly reduce the likelihood of those other treatments being needed, and might require less invasive surgery, or no surgery at all.
Unfortunately, the vaccine isn’t expected to go to clinical trials until 2018, and it will be years yet before it’s available. So for now, it’s up to you to do the work to keep your gums disease-free! Brushing and flossing daily is just the cost of admission for healthy teeth — you also need to make sure to get regular dental cleanings and checkups to stay on top of your oral health.
If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease, such as red or swollen gums, loose or sensitive teeth, or bad breath, it’s important to meet with your dentist. Dr. Kenneth Siegel can treat gum disease with a variety of easy, gentle methods. Call us at (610) 272-0828 or request an appointment online.