Chances are that you or a family member have some stage of gum (periodontal) disease. Relax. While many adults do develop some degree of periodontal disease as part of the aging process, there are some steps you can take to prevent it.
In this web page we have compiled the latest information about periodontal health-information you can use to retain your smile for a lifetime.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal (gum) disease is caused by plaque, a colorless film of bacteria that forms on teeth. Plaque is most harmful when these bacteria form into colonies - that takes about 24 hours. If not removed daily, plaque mixes with sugars and starches in the diet to form acids and other by-products in the mouth. Plaque irritates the gums, causing them to become red, tender and swollen. It also causes the gums to bleed easily. If not removed, plaque hardens to form calculus (tartar) around the necks of the teeth.
Eventually, the tissue that attaches the gums to the teeth is destroyed by the irritants in plaque. The gums pull away from the teeth and small pockets form between the teeth and gums. These pockets become filled with more plaque. Eventually, the jawbone supporting the teeth is destroyed.
Periodontal disease is usually a slow, painless, progressive disease. Periodontal disease is usually a slow, painless, progressive disease. Most adults with gum disease are unaware that they have it. However, if diagnosed early, the teeth can be saved.
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What Are The Signs?
- Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Gums that have receded or shrunken away from your teeth
- Pus between your teeth and gums when you press your gums with your finger
- Teeth that seem loose or that change position; often the front teeth tend to "fan" out
- A change in your bite
- A change in the way your partial dentures fit
- Bad breath or a chronic bad taste in your mouth.
DiagnosisOf course, the only way to confirm a diagnosis of periodontal disease is to have your mouth thoroughly examined, and the necessary oral X-rays taken. We also recommend a thorough prophylaxis (tooth cleaning) for all adults at least twice a year. At that time we may use a special instrument called a periodontal probe to measure the depth of the crevice (pocket) - the space between the tooth and the gum tissue (see illustration above). Pocket depth measurement, clinical examination and X-rays determine the precise extent of gum disease.
Gum Disease May Relate to Heart Attack Risk
Previous studies have found the incidence of heart disease is about twice as high in people with periodontal (gum) disease, but until recently no plausible cause had been suggested. Studies now indicate that the most common strain of bacteria in dental plaque may cause blood clots. When blood clots escape into the bloodstream, there is a relation to increased risk of heart attacks and other heart illnesses.
People with periodontal disease (over one half the adult population) have an infection that causes chronic inflammation of the gums. Also, it is a path for these bacteria to enter the bloodstream.
A recent study describes the association between heart disease and gum disease to be at least as strong as the linkage of heart disease to cholesterol, body weight, or smoking. Incidence of Periodontal Disease.
Unlike most diseases that give us early warning signs, gum disease progresses silently, often without pain. It may develop slowly or progress quite rapidly. More than half of all people over 18 have at least the early stages of periodontal disease. Even more frightening, after the age of 35, three out of four people are affected to some degree. Periodontal disease is an infection that destroys the gum surrounding your teeth and also destroys the supporting bone that holds your teeth in place.
What Other Health Concerns Are Related To Gum Disease?
Bacteria in plaque have also been linked to:
- Inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels that is known to lead to constriction in the arteries.
- Infective endocarditis, a potentially fatal disease in which the sac around the heart becomes inflamed.
- Lung infections in people with chronic lung diseases.
- A weakened immune system that can slow wound healing and diminish a person's response to hepatitis B and flu vaccines.
- A higher risk of delivering premature, low birth weight infants.
- Tooth loss.
Evidence is mounting relating gum disease to a variety of health concerns, some that are life threatening. By keeping regular recare appointments with your dental team, you help increase your chances for a long and happy life.
Treatment of Gum Disease
The type of treatment required depends upon the stage of the disease. Individualized treatment may include any of the following: Scaling and root planing. Scaling is removing the calculus deposits from your teeth; root planing is the smoothing of the root surfaces so that the gum tissue can reattach to the tooth.
- Curettage removes the soft tissue lining the periodontal pocket. This helps the gum tissue to heal.
- Gingivectomy is surgical removal of the periodontal pockets when the disease does not involve the jaw bone.
- Flap surgery allows us to gain access to the root of the tooth for removal of calculus, plaque and diseased tissue. The gum is then secured back into place. Flap surgery is sometimes accompanied by osseous (bone) surgery, in which the bone around the tooth is reshaped or part of it is removed.
- More than half of all adults aged 35 and over have the early stages of this disease. Three out of four adults are eventually affected by it. Periodontal disease is the primary cause of lost teeth after age 35. But the good news is that there are steps you can take to prevent periodontal disease in your mouth. If caught in its early stages, gum disease can be reversed.
A Final Word...
You need not lose your teeth to gum disease.
- Thoroughly brush and floss
- Eat well-balanced meals
- Examine your mouth
- Visit us, at least twice a year