Category Archives: Gum Disease
What is gum disease?
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, a chronic inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding tissue, is the major cause of about 70 percent of adult tooth loss, affecting three out of four persons at some point in their life.
What causes gum disease?
Bacterial plaque– a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on the teeth- is recognized as the primary cause of gum disease. Specific periodontal diseases may be associated with specific bacterial types. If plaque isn’t removed each day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into a rough, porous substance called calculus (also known as tartar). Toxins (poisons) produced and released by bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. These toxins cause the breakdown of the fibers that hold the gums tightly to the teeth, creating periodontal pockets which fill with even more toxins and bacteria. As the disease progresses, pockets extend deeper and the bacteria moves down until the bone that holds the tooth in place is destroyed. The tooth eventually will fall out or require extraction.
Are there other factors?
Yes. Genetics is also a factor, as are lifestyle choices. A diet low in nutrients can diminish the body’s ability to fight infections. Smokers and spit tobacco users have more irritation to gum tissues than non-tobacco users, while stress can also affect the ability to ward off disease. Diseases that interfere with the body’s immune system, such as leukemia and AIDS, may worsen the condition for the gums. In patients with uncontrolled diabetes, where the body is more prone to infection, gum disease is more severe or harder to control.
What are the warning signs of gum disease?
Signs include red, swollen or tender gums, bleeding while brushing or flossing, gum that pull away from teeth, loose or separating teeth, puss between the gum and tooth, persistent bad breath, change in the way teeth fit together when the patient bites, and a change in the fit of partial dentures. While patients are advised to check for the warning signs, there might not be any discomfort until the disease has spread to a point where the tooth is unsalvagable. That’s why patients are advised to get frequent dental exams.
What does periodontal treatment involve?
In the early stages, most treatment involves scaling and root planing — removing plaque and calculus around the tooth and smoothing the root surfaces. Antibiotics or antimicrobials may be used to supplement the effects of scaling and root planing. In most cases of early gum disease, called gingivitis, scaling and root planing and proper daily cleaning achieve a satisfactory result. More advanced cases may require surgical treatment, which involves cutting the gums, and removing the hardened plaque build-up and recontouring the damaged bone. The procedure is also deigned to smooth root surfaces and reposition the gum tissue so it will be easier to keep clean.
How do you prevent gum disease?
Removing plaque through daily brushing, flossing and professional cleaning is the best way to minimize your risk. Your dentist can design a personalized program of home oral care to meet your needs. If a dentist doesn’t do a periodontal exam during a regular visit, the patient should request it. Children also should be examined.
What is the role of the general dentist?
The general dentist usually detects gum disease and treats it in the early stages. Some general dentists have acquired additional expertise to treat more advanced conditions of the disease. If the general dentist believes that the gum disease requires more treatment by a specialist, the patient will be referred to a periodontist. The dentist and periodontists will work together to formulate a treatment plan for the patient.
Is maintenance important?
Sticking to a regular oral hygiene regimen is crucial for patients who want to sustain the results of therapy. Patients should visit the dentist every 3-4 months (or more, depending on the patient) for spot scaling and root planing and an overall exam. In between visits, they should brush at least twice a day, floss daily, and brush their tongue. Manual soft nylon bristles are the most dependable and least expensive. Electric toothbrushes are also a good option, but don’t reach any further into the pocket than manual brushes. Proxy brushes (small, narrow brushes) are the best way to clean in between the recesses in the teeth, and should be used once a day. Wooden tooth picks and rubber tips should only be used if recommended by your dentist.
How do I prepare for a dental visit?
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- If you are prone to dental anxiety, eat a high-protein snack and avoid caffeinated or sugary beverages on the day of your visit to help keep you calm.
- If your dental visit coincides with your usual mealtime, bring a healthy snack to much on.
- Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing.
- Bring a list of medications (name and dosage), as well as the names of your recent and current health care practitioners. Additionally, alert your dentist of any medical conditions you have been diagnosed with.
- Jot down any questions you think of on a notepad. Bring extra paper with you to record the dentist’s answers and any oral care instructions.
Expect your dentist to perform a thorough examination, detect potential problems, and provide an appropriate treatment plan. An initial examination may include some or all of the following procedures:a soft tissue examination; screening and exam for periodontal disease; detailed charting of cavities, existing restorations (fillings and crowns), and other tooth conditions; and an oral cancer screening. Dental x-rays also may be taken to locate any abnormalities or injuries that cannot be detected through a visual exam.
Is it important to share a complete medical history?
Yes. Even if you’ve seen the same dentist for years, communicate any changes in your mouth or medical conditions that have been recently diagnosed. Health conditions, medications – even vitamins- can interfere with routine dental procedures. If you have a medical condition, such as heart-valve problems, recent total joint replacement, or insulin-dependent diabetes, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics before your dental visit to prevent the spread of bacteria. these procedures could include professional teeth cleaning, extractions, and implant surgery.
If you are a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy, it is important to inform your dentist about your condition. According to the National Institutes for Health, 40 percent of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy experience oral complications including salivary gland dysfunction, which leads to dry mouth rampant dental decay, and painful mouth sores. The more your dentist knows about your medical history and overall health, the better he or she is able to develop a personalized dental treatment plan to help improve your quality of life.
Are routine visits necessary?
Yes. Make sure to get regular dental checkups at least every six months to maintain healthy teeth and gums. But it is important to know that achieving optimum oral health requires more than regular checkups: it requires you to be an informed patient and an active participant in your own health. Ask your dentist questions about results for your check up and any recommended treatment. If you have researched an oral health problem, the information that you gather can help you identify health concerns and ask the right questions.
Do I need to discuss payment arrangements before my visit?
Payment requirements vary with each dental office, so it’s a good idea to discuss this with the receptionist before your next visit. Making payment arrangements ahead of time also can help reduce pre-visit related stress. If possible, find out what services your dental insurance covers. Ask whether your dentist accepts this kind of insurance and about what payment options are offered.
What if I need to cancel my appointment?
If you cannot keep a scheduled dental appointment, don’t’ wait until the last minute to cancel or now show up at all. Since staff has set up a specific time slot for your oral health care, you should provide as much notice as possible of cancellation. Penalties for missed appointments vary from office to office and some may charge you for failure to cancel . While some emergencies may make it difficult to provide advance notice, 24 hours is recommended.
If you’re unsure about what to ask your dentist, try these questions:
- What type of toothbrush and floss is best for me?
- Am I brushing and flossing effectively?
- Are my teeth and gums healthy?
Mouthwash is a great supplement to help improve dental health. It can clean hard to reach areas that brushing and flossing sometimes cannot, making it a strong recommendation for those with braces or dental appliances. Mouth rinse temporarily suppresses bad breath, prevents tooth decay, reduces plaque, and helps kill the germs that cause gingivitis. Typically, the rinse is swished or gargled for thirty to sixty seconds and then spit out. Some people experience a slight burning or tingling sensation and/or drying of oral tissues. These are common side effects, however if these symptoms worsen or others appear it is important to discontinue use and inform your dentist to discuss other options. In addition, if you suffer from certain medical conditions such as heartburn, acid reflux, or indigestion, you will want to find a rinse with a neutral pH level since many rank high on the acidic scale.
In general, mouth rinse is very safe and is an aide in the prevention of oral disease when combined with regular brushing and flossing habits. To avoid diluting the effects, do not rinse, eat, or smoke for at least 30 minutes after using a rinse. These factors combined will help ensure great benefits and promote total oral health.