Dental treatments: Gum disease

Why might I be susceptible?

Periodontal disease is the Number One cause of tooth loss amongst adults. This is because a certain number of people (15-20%) have immune systems that overreact to the bad bacteria in their mouths. When this overreaction occurs, the immune system attacks and breaks down the bone and tissue that surround the tooth. This destruction is not predictable and can occur sporadically. None of us knows if we are part of this 15-20% because we can’t usually feel or notice the onset of gum and bone (periodontal) disease. Both adults and children should be routinely checked for gum disease.

Keeping your gums in shape

Keep in mind that healthy gums DON’T BLEED. You are the key player on the hygiene team. If you don’t do the essential daily brushing and flossing, the rest of your dental team (the dentist and hygienist) is playing short-handed. And sometimes with everyone fighting the good fight, stubborn plaque and bacteria will require some new maintenance techniques for battling gum infection.

Gum disease is not curable, but it is treatable, and in most cases, controllable.

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Are you living at high risk for gum disease?

Smoking: Numerous studies have shown that smokers have more gum disease. Smokers have increased levels of tartar in the mouth, and experience more tissue irritation, which makes their gums more susceptible to disease. Smokers have more bone loss and heal less quickly than non-smokers.

Stress: When our immune system is stressed it is difficult to fight off the bacteria that cause gum infections.

Dental neglect: Avoiding the dentist is a lifestyle choice that puts you at risk of contracting diseases of the mouth, teeth and gums.

Floss or die! Your hygienist or dentist works to prevent infection in your mouth from entering the bloodstream and reaching vital organs.

Heart disease: Gum inflammation products and bacteria in gum disease can cause heart disease, and in some cases, double the risk of a fatal heart attack. In addition, bacteria from your mouth may combine with blood-clotting cells called platelets, forming heart-stopping blood clots.

Stroke: New studies show that 70% of the fatty deposits of stroke sufferers contain bacteria, of which 40% comes from the mouth.

Diabetics: This group of people are more likely to have gum disease than most people and gum disease makes it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar.

Premature birth: Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be as much as seven times more likely to have a baby born early. Some research suggests that gum disease may increase the level of hormones that induce labour.

Diagnosis: Chronic Inflammatory Periodontal Disease

Gum disease is a low-grade chronic bacterial infection also called periodontal disease or pyorrhea.  While everyone has bacteria in their mouths, not everyone develops gum disease.  There are identifiable risk factors that can make it more likely for the bacteria in your mouth to result in destructive gum disease.  We now know that due to these risk factors some patients can clean their teeth and visit the dentist religiously and still have gum problems. 

 

Over time, food and bacteria tend to collect between the teeth and gum.  If this debris is not adequately removed, the bacteria migrate deeper under the gumline.  In a susceptible patient, a space or "pocket" forms between the tooth and gum.  Once these pockets of bacterial form below the gumline, you cannot reach them even with good toothbrushing and flossing. 

 

The bacteria multiply and cause the gum cells to release a variety of substances that aggravate and inflame the gum tissues.  The gum tissue and then the supporting bone are slowly destroyed.  If enough bone tissue is destroyed, the teeth loosen and are eventually lost.

 

Gum disease rarely causes pain or any symptoms since the infection readily drains up through the gum.  Often you cannot tell you even have gum disease until the gum is inspected and checked for pockets.  It’s like having termites in your house.  Above the ground the house looks fine, but the foundation is slowly being destroyed without you even knowing it.   It’s the same way with gum disease.  Just because it doesn’t hurt doesn’t mean all is well.  Unlike looking for termites, we do not need to wait until damage has been done to tell if you have gum disease.  We can detect gum disease early and prevent or repair its damage.  You can keep watch also.  Bleeding is a strong indicator of gum inflammation.  Healthy gums do not bleed at all when brushed or flossed.  If you have any gum bleeding when you clean your teeth, your gums are inflamed. 

 

We now know that this ongoing bacterial infection in your mouth can have far reaching effects elsewhere in your body.  When the gums are chronically inflamed, these bacteria can gain entrance into your bloodstream and spread to other parts of your body.  Gum disease increases your risk for heart disease.  Gum disease has been linked to pulmonary infections and gastric ulcer reinfection.  Gum disease in diabetics makes control of blood sugar more difficult.  Gum disease during pregnancy increases the risk for a pre-term, low birth weight baby.  The American Academy of Periodontology’s website (www.Perio.org) has patient-oriented information concerning the increased risk for other health problems when gum disease is allowed to persist. 

 

The progression of gum disease can be halted if the bacteria and debris are removed from these pockets.  Traditionally, gum treatment consisted of cutting the diseased gum away with the hope that what would remain would heal and be healthy.  Fortunately, a variety of new techniques have allowed us to successfully treat chronic gum infections much more conservatively.  Removing large amounts of diseased gum and then "packing" the gums is a thing of the past.  That’s a welcome relief to patients.

We are innovative in our treatment protocols.  Our foundational approach is to use the techniques that will most efficient eliminate the inflammation in your mouth to resolve.  Your oral and overall health are at stake!

For more information go to Perio.org

 

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