One of the main obligations of general dentists, besides filling cavities and cleaning teeth, is to look for and treat gum disease, also known as periodontal neglect, in its early stages. During every check-up, general dentists need to perform certain tasks, such as examining the inside of a patient’s mount for sores and other signs of disease, examining the patient extra-orally to look for asymmetries that may indicate serious problems, examining teeth for cavities, and examining gum tissue and the structures that surround each tooth.
The examination of the gums and the structures that surround and support each tooth is known as Periodontal Probing. A small probe is inserted along the base of each tooth and into the gum and how far the probe is able to be inserted is determined. This allows the dentist to detect if there is Periodontal Disease (gum disease). Inserting the probe 2-3 millimeters is normal, however the further the probe is able to be inserted, the worse the condition.
Gum disease results in the loss of support of the tooth, or teeth, due to progressive inflammation of the gum and bone that surround the tooth. Teeth that are periodontally involved may become:
- Painful to chew on,
- Gum tissue around the tooth may become swollen,
- There may be a bad taste and foul breath odor, and
- Food particles and bacteria may become lodged in the spaces, leading to infections.
Severe Cases That Involve the Failure to Diagnose
In severe cases of gum disease, the jaw bone becomes eroded and results in a loss of Vertical Bone Height. Gum disease is also a major cause of tooth loss. If caught early, gum disease can be treated by proper cleaning by a dentist, the use of special mouth rinses by the patient, and by periodic checkups and re-treatments.
Mid-stage gum disease can be treated by procedures known as Deep Scaling and Root Planning. These procedures involve the scraping away of plaque and deposits lodged below the gum line. Sometimes, oral antibiotics are prescribed. In other cases antibiotics are administered through the insertion of a Periodontal Chip in to the periodontal pocket, directly treating the local condition.
If the gum disease is at an advanced stage, it can be treated by a gum specialist called a Periodontist. The Periodontist will open up the gums and expose the roots of the teeth and scrape out the infected and dead tissue. This will allow new healthy tissue to develop. There are also cases where a bone graft is inserted into the pockets where jaw bone has been lost. This reinforces the area and permits new bone to grow.
When a dentist fails to examine for gum disease over an extended period of time, allowing the disease to go undetected and untreated is considered to be dental malpractice. If you or a loved one has been the victim of dental malpractice, contact and experienced dental or medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.
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