A Serious Situation That’s Simple to Stop
You may not realize that gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) is terribly pervasive, yet tremendously preventable. In fact, conservative estimates say that up to 80% of people are walking around with some level of chronic gum disease, without even knowing it. What’s worse, is that this disease is responsible for up to 70% of adult tooth loss. Part of the problem is that the signs of gum disease are both silent and serious. Since the disease isn’t painful in the early stages, it’s usually necessary to have a dentist identify the telltale gum inflammation and infection. And since it usually progresses considerably prior to diagnosis, a dentist is also required to treat and stop the disease. However, once arrested, you can prevent gum disease from recurring.simply by developing healthy hygiene habits.
Bacteria, Bad Choices, and Bad Genes
Several factors play a role in the development of periodontal disease: plaque buildup, heredity, and lifestyle choices. By far the most common and controllable factor, however, is the presence of bacterial plaque– a sticky, colorless film produced by normal oral bacteria. If you don’t remove plaque daily by brushing and flossing, the toxins released by those oral bacteria will break down the natural fibers that hold your gums to your teeth, allowing even more bacteria and toxins to invade. As this process continues, your affected tooth, tooth root, and jawbone may all be damaged or entirely destroyed by decay! Furthermore, when you allow plaque to stay on your teeth, it quickly hardens into calculus or tartar– a rough, porous substance that further irritates your gums. And at this point, even your most diligent brushing and flossing cannot remove this hard tartar. And sadly, you’ll probably never even notice the problem.
In addition to the problems caused by poor oral health habits, your poor lifestyle choices can affect your body’s ability to fight infection or increase irritation in the gum tissue area. Poor nutrition and poorly managed stress reduce your body’s natural ability to ward off periodontal disease, as do leukemia, AIDS, and diabetes. Smoking and chewing tobacco irritate the gum tissue. And finally, some people are simply born with a diminished resistance to gum disease.
Warning Signs & Treatment
When we look for periodontal disease, we check for red, swollen or tender gums, bleeding while brushing or flossing, gums that pull away from teeth, loose or separating teeth, puss between the gum and tooth, persistent bad breath, change in your bite, and/or a change in the fit of partial dentures. And although these sound obvious, they’re actually overlooked by most people. That’s why your regular dental exams are so important.
If we do confirm that you have gum disease, we’ll set up an individualized tissue management program for you. Initially, restorative treatment may include simple scaling and root planning to remove calculus and plaque around the tooth and root surfaces, together with the use of antibiotics or antimicrobials, and an improved commitment to proper daily oral hygiene. If your case is more severe, treatment may require laser cutting of the gums, removal of calculus, and recontouring of any damaged bone. This procedure smooths the root surfaces and repositions gum tissue to make your hygiene efforts more effective.
Of course, after your treatment, it’s critical that you commit to consistent, proper oral hygiene to sustain the results. This means twice-daily brushing with a soft nylon-bristled brush, daily flossing, and thorough tongue brushing. In some cases, we may advise that you use small, narrow brushes called proxy brushes to clean tooth recesses more thoroughly. In addition, you’ll want to visit us for a professional cleaning at least every 3-4 months for spot scaling, root planning, and a thorough follow-up exam.
Prevention, Reduction, & Maintenance
General dentists are able to detect and treat gum disease in the early stages; many also have the expertise to treat advanced conditions. we are qualified to handle both of these situations, without having to refer you to an additional specialist.
All told, the best way to prevent gum disease is to brush and floss carefully and consistently in the first place, in addition to regular professional cleanings. That’s why, as a rule, we’ll always conduct a general periodontal preventive maintenance exam each time we see you for a checkup. We are also happy to prescribe a specific home hygiene program to handle your specific requirements.