Gum Disease Is No Laughing Matter.
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease or periodontitis, is the most prevalent disease in the US today and the number one cause of tooth loss in adults. Periodontal (gum) disease, including gingivitis and periodontitis, are serious infections that, if left untreated, can lead to tooth loss. Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bones supporting the teeth. Diagnosing periodontal disease is painless, and requires a technique to measure the depth of the pocket that is between your tooth and your gums. The deeper the pocket, the more progressed the disease has become. Our office also uses the cavity-detecting x-rays to check for signs of bone loss between the teeth. Signs and symptoms of periodontal disease include inflammation of the gums (bleeding easily when brushed, flossed, or even touched), gums that have receded, abscesses, bad breath, and the buildup of plaque and tarter on the teeth.
This is the first stage of periodontal disease, which is inflammation of the gingiva, or gums. Signs of gingivitis include tender, red, swollen gums that bleed easily and may be responsible for bad breath in some cases. Gingivitis is easily reversed by good dental hygiene; cleaning the teeth twice a day, flossing, making sure you remove all plaque and bacteria from the tooth, and attending your dental checkups regularly. Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis.
Once you are diagnosed with periodontal disease, it has become a factor of bone loss, deep pockets, and accumulated plaque and/or tarter that has accumulated below the surface to the root. At this point, a deeper cleaning is necessary to work to restore your dental health to manageable levels. Scaling and Root Planing is the first procedure that we use to remove the bacterial plaque and tartar from the surfaces and the root surfaces of your teeth. You will need to have more frequent cleanings after the Scaling and Root Planing due to the advancement of the disease. At this point, maintaining with periodontal maintenance visits is crucial so that the disease does not progress, and you are able to manage it with good dental care from here forward.
Grinding and Clenching
Many patients come to our office showing major signs of wear and tear on their teeth. We can diagnose grinding or clenching before even talking to the patient, in most instances. If left untreated, this can lead to costly dental repair due to cracked teeth, the need for root canals and crowns, or loss of teeth due to mobility. We are able to help prevent some of this with what is known as a night guard, or occlusal guard. This mouthpiece is worn according to the doctor’s recommendations to prevent the wear and tear on your teeth. In some cases, it can help to also relieve jaw discomfort from the constant pressure and tension that the grinding or clenching causes.
Risk Factors for Periodontal Disease:
Do you have any of these possible risk factors? If so, now would be the time to schedule a consultation with your dentist and hygienist to diagnose any dental issues you may be having and to prevent further damage from being done!
- Smoking: Smoking can cause bone loss and gum recession and can accelerate periodontal disease.
- Substance Abuse: Long-term alcohol and illegal drug abuse can damage gums and teeth.
- Diet: Malnutrition and an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for periodontal disease.
- Stress: Psychological Stress can cause the body to release inflammatory hormones, which may trigger or worsen periodontal disease.
- Oral Hygiene: Lack of good oral hygiene worsens the bacterial buildup and plaque formation, leading to periodontal disease.
- Sugar and Acid: The bacteria causing periodontal disease thrive in acidic environments.
- Female Hormones: female hormones tend to affect the gums, leading women to be particularly susceptible to periodontal disease. The disease is also occasionally a side effect of birth control medication.
- Menstruation: When progesterone levels are high, gingivitis may flare up in some women, so good oral hygiene is a must in these circumstances.
- Pregnancy: Pregnancy does not cause gum disease, but changes in the hormones during pregnancy can cause the gums to become inflamed and swollen, aggravating existing gingivitis, and causing initial gingivitis where none may have been present. Pregnancy-related gingivitis usually resolves within a few months of delivery, but if not, regular dental cleaning appointments will help. It has been shown that periodontal disease can increase the risk of low birth weight, earlier term infants, so it is important and highly recommended to see the dentist more often when pregnant.
- Menopause: Estrogen deficiency after menopause reduces bone mineral density, which can lead to bone loss.
- Poorly Contoured Restorations: Poorly contoured restorations (fillings or crowns) can provide traps for debris and plaque and can contribute to periodontitis.
- Wisdom Teeth: Wisdom teeth can be a breeding ground for bacteria that causes periodontal disease.
Family History: Periodontal disease often occurs in members of the same family. Genetic factors may play a role.