By Lee R. Cohen, D.D.S., M.S., M.S.
We see an incredible amount of patients with all levels of gum and jaw bone disease with one common finding… lack of pain. This may seem like a blessing, but the lack of warning often does not prompt patients to seek treatment in the early stages. Leaving periodontal disease, inflammation and destruction of the gum and jaw bone untreated can lead to potentially significant dental problems that may require costly treatment.
A very large, recent study revealed that 1 in 2 adults over the age of 30 have some form of periodontal disease. That is every other one of us! Periodontal disease can range from simple, swollen gums to significant loss of jaw bone support and eventually loss of teeth. Most of this entire process can occur without any discomfort, which tends to lead patients into feeling that nothing dramatic is happening.
The development and progression of periodontal disease is not exactly the same for every patient, but it does often follow a similar pattern. Typically, plaque (which is bacteria) rests on the teeth and gum line. If left undisturbed (unbrushed), this plaque can calcify over time and turn into tartar. Tartar forms a ledge that can catch even more plaque making the situation continue to get worse.
Our bodies view this accumulation of plaque and tartar as an “infection”. Just as if you cut your hand, extra blood is sent to the area to help ward off the infection and begin the healing process. On our hand, this may be evident by a red, swollen area. In our gums, the tissues become inflamed and often bleed when brushed. We call this Gingivitis. If treated properly, Gingivitis has the potential to be reversible. If not addressed, there is a high probability that this disease will lead to destruction of the jaw bone supporting the teeth (and ultimately loss of the teeth).
What Can Be Done:
Patients often avoid treatment for 1 primary reason, fear. What most people do not realize is that periodontal disease can be treated in a number of ways that truly does not hurt. Early therapy often involves non-surgical treatments such as scaling and root planing (often called by patients a “Deep Cleaning”). This initial form of therapy can help remove much of the tartar deposits and reduce the gum inflammation. Many patients report a decrease in bleeding when brushing their teeth after this treatment.
In situations where the disease has progressed beyond just gum inflammation (a periodontal evaluation and x-rays are needed to make this determination), more advanced therapy may be indicated. An exciting, newer treatment for periodontal disease called LANAP (Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure) or Laser Therapy is available which typically involves no pain or discomfort. LANAP is the only FDA approved laser therapy for the treatment of periodontal disease. Traditional periodontal procedures are also available to help try and slow (or potentially stop) the disease progression.
Catching periodontal disease early may help slow or stop the continuation of tissue, bone and possibly tooth loss. Many of the treatment options available are pain-free and can help prevent more invasive and costly procedures down the road. It is important to realize that you may not be symptomatic or in pain while this disease continues to destroy important gum and bone tissue. Regular periodontal evaluations and early intervention can truly help a patient increase their chances of maintaining their original teeth.
Lee R. Cohen, D.D.S., M.S., M.S., is a Dual Board Certified Periodontal and Dental Implant Surgeon. He is a graduate of Emory University and New York University College of Dentistry.
Dr. Cohen completed his surgical training at the University of Florida / Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. He served as Chief Resident and currently holds a staff appointment as a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Periodontics and Dental Implantology. Dr. Cohen lectures, teaches and performs clinical research on topics related to his surgical specialty.
The focus of his interests are conservative approaches to treating gum, bone and tooth loss. He utilizes advanced techniques including the use of the Periolase Dental Laser (LANAP procedure) to help save teeth and treat periodontal disease without the use of traditional surgical procedures. Additionally, he uses in-office, state of the art 3D CT imaging to develop the least invasive dental implant and bone regeneration treatment options. Dr. Cohen and his facility are state certified to perform both IV and Oral Sedation procedures. Botox® and Dermal Fillers are also utilized to enhance patients’ cosmetic outcomes.
Dr. Cohen currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the American Academy of Periodontology and formerly the Florida Dental Association. He is past president of the Florida Association of Periodontists and the Atlantic Coast District Dental Association. Dr. Cohen is a member of the American Academy of Facial Esthetics. In addition, he has been awarded Fellowship in the American College of Dentists, International College of Dentists and the Pierre Fauchard Academy.
Lee R. Cohen, D.D.S., M.S., M.S.
4520 Donald Ross Road, Suite 110
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
Painless Gum Disease: Do I Need To Treat It?
By Lee R. Cohen, D.D.S., M.S., M.S.