An infection in the superficial layers of the gums can quickly worsen and become a significantly more difficult issue to treat. While gum disease, technically known as periodontal disease, typically begins with swelling, soreness or bleeding of the gums, but it can easily spread down below the gum line and into the crevices between tooth roots.
Gum disease is primarily the result of a plaque build up on the surface of the teeth. Ineffective brushing or flossing can lead to a combination of bacteria and lingering food particles that lead to infection affecting the gum tissue, tooth roots, and bone.
Tooth Roots And Gum Infection
Teeth with multiple roots, in particular, are the most susceptible to the negative effects of gum disease. The areas between the roots of these teeth are called furcations and can be difficult to treat when gum disease has spread down into those areas. Gum disease that has spread between tooth roots causes an infection known as furcation invasion or furcation involvement. This infection will weaken the bone and can even cause it to dissolve.
As mentioned previously, periodontal disease is most often cause by an accumulation of plaque on the surface of the teeth. When this bacterium is allowed to grow from a lack of proper oral hygiene habits, it will spread down below the gum line where brushing and flossing cannot reach and cannot help. As the infection grows, it will affect the tooth and gums in classes, or stages, that affect the tooth more as it grows.
In its earliest stage, Class I, the infection will cause a slight separation of gum tissue from the tooth creating a sort of pocket or groove in the gums with only slight bone loss, if any. In the second stage, Class II, this pocket grows into a larger horizontal opening of 2 or more millimeters that likely deepens into the crown of the tooth. This larger pocket is a clear sign of measurable bone loss. In its most advanced stage, Class III, the infection has spread into an opening that has caused enough bone loss to pass through the furcation from under the crown of the tooth through to the other side.
Identifying the stage of furcation involvement is best done through a combination of dental x-rays, a physical examination, and knowledgeable experience from a trusted dentist. Maintaining consistent dental checkups and cleanings are one of the best ways to help prevent and detect gum infection before it can grow into a more serious condition such as a furcation invasion.
Treating Gum Infection In Furcations
Treating gum disease that has spread into the furcation of a tooth is more difficult than typical periodontal disease treatment. Treating typical gum disease can be done through non-surgical treatments including aggressive dental cleanings, root scaling, laser curettage, or oral and topical antibiotics. Treating gum disease around tooth roots can be much harder as it becomes significantly harder to access the affected area.
At the earliest stage, treatment begins by cleaning root surfaces uses scalers or ultrasonic tools. However, furcations often require surgery in which a hinged flap is created in the gum tissue allowing the dentist to access the root area. This flap is moved aside during treatments and then replaced and sutured afterwards. In more serious cases, treatment may require grafting gum and/or bone tissues to encourage regeneration in the affected areas. Surgery may also be required to reshape the gum attachments around the tooth.
The treatment for gum disease around tooth roots is hard and involved, but it can be done. However, it is far better to invest time into thorough brushing and flossing twice a day along with routine dental cleanings to help prevent the infection from forming or growing.
Dr. Barton H. Foutz, DDS
2510 Wigwam Parkway Suite 100 Henderson, NV 89074