How Your Dental Clinic Can Help You Prevent Gum Disease
Periodontal disease is a preventable dental condition that can worsen without proper treatment. As this disease progresses, patients are at greater risk of other health complications. It is, therefore, crucial to treat gum disease as early as possible to maintain not only dental but also overall health.
Proper care and treatments at your Casselman dental clinic can help.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is also known as gum disease and refers to infections in the structures surrounding the teeth. These structures include:
- The gums;
- The cementum that covers the root;
- The periodontal ligament; and
- The alveolar bone.
These infections start from bacteria in dental plaque. Without proper dental cleanings, these bacteria will multiply and spread below the gum line. Gums will become inflamed (swollen) and detach from the teeth, causing pockets to form. These pockets create an ideal environment for bacteria to grow.
In the earliest stage of gum disease, only the gums are infected. This stage is known as gingivitis.
The second stage of gum disease is called periodontitis; at this stage, the infection spreads below the gum line to the bone. The final stage of gum disease is advanced periodontitis.
As the periodontal disease spreads and worsens, it can destroy the periodontal ligament and the alveolar bone, the structures in the jawbone that support teeth. This results in loose teeth, at which point extraction may be necessary.
It is also possible for the infection to make its way into the bloodstream and cause other health problems and complications.
It is very important to note, however, that gum disease can be prevented and controlled with proper dental care!
Who is At Risk?
There are many possible risk factors for developing periodontal disease, but the most important risk factor is oral hygiene. Without the proper removal of bacteria and plaque, the bacteria will continue to develop and will infect the gums and tooth structures. Of course, oral hygiene requires daily efficient cleaning.
Other common risk factors for periodontal disease include:
- Genetics: some people may be genetically predisposed to gum disease.
- Tobacco use: smoking increases the risk and severity of periodontal disease and reduces treatment effectiveness.
- Diseases: certain diseases cause damage to the immune system and make treatment of periodontal disease more difficult. Such diseases include diabetes, HIV, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Medication: certain medications that cause dry mouth or enlarged gums which can increase the risk of gum disease. Talk to your dentist about any medications you may be taking.
- Poor nutrition: a diet low in essential nutrients will lead to a weakened immune system and poor overall health. This makes it harder for the body to fight off infections like gum disease.
- Braces, bridgework, misaligned teeth, or crowded teeth: if it is difficult to reach certain areas within the mouth with a toothbrush or with dental floss, there is a greater likelihood develop plaque and tartar buildup.
- Stress: stress weakens the immune system as well.
- Clenched or grinding teeth: while this habit doesn’t cause gum disease, the pressure can weaken the periodontal ligament and bone, resulting in a rapid development of harmful symptoms.
- Hormonal changes: fluctuating hormone levels can affect the mouth, causing an increased risk for gum disease.
What Are the Symptoms?
Gum disease is usually painless which can make it difficult to detect. Many do not know they have gum disease. These are telltale signs of gum disease:
- Constant bad breath and taste in the mouth;
- Swollen, red, or tender gums;
- Bleeding gums—especially after brushing and flossing;
- Receding gums;
- Sensitive teeth;
- Pain while chewing;
- Pus surrounding the teeth and gums;
- Loose or separating teeth;
- A change in teeth placement and bite; and;
- Loose fitting dentures.
How Is Peridontal Disease Diagnosed?
To diagnose periodontal disease, your dentist or dental hygienist will look for signs of gum inflammation. They will then use a probe—a tiny ruler—to measure the depth of pockets around the teeth.
The depth of pockets for healthy gums ranges from 1 to 3 mm. Pockets that are 4 mm or deeper may be an indication of gum disease.
Your dental team will also ask about your dental and medical history to determine any risk factors for periodontal disease. They may also take an X-ray of your mouth to see if there is any bone loss.
Depending on the severity of gum disease, dentists may refer patients to a periodontist, a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease.
What Are the Possible Complications?
If the gum disease infection spreads, bacteria can reach the bloodstream, causing further health complications. It is also worth noting that it is easy for bacteria to enter the body through the mouth.
Gum disease can contribute to the development of the following health problems:
- Heart disease;
- Respiratory disease;
- Stroke; and,
- Premature births.
Is it Possible to Prevent Periodontal Disease?
A change in lifestyle can help reduce the risk of developing periodontal disease.
Good Habits to Adopt
- Floss daily to remove plaque between teeth
- Brush for two to three minutes at least twice a day and along the gum line
- Rinse with antibacterial mouthwash
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings
- Address dental problems right away—i.e. poor fillings, teeth grinding, crowded teeth
Bad Habits to Stop
- Consuming smokeless tobacco
- Grinding teeth
- Using a tough toothbrush
- Drinking alcohol
- Eating junk food
What Treatment Options Are Available?
There are several treatments for periodontal disease, depending on the severity of the infection.
No matter what stage of gum disease, a deep cleaning is the first line of defense to help stop the spread of infection. Deep cleanings include dental scaling and root planing to remove plaque and tartar buildup above and below the gum line.
To treat the infection, your dentist or periodontist might prescribe one of the following medications:
- Antimicrobial mouthwash
- Oral antibiotics
- Antibiotic gel to place on infected gums
- Antiseptic chips or antibiotic microspheres
- Enzyme suppressants—to block certain enzymes in your mouth from breaking down gum tissue
- Pocket reduction surgery
- Root canal treatment
- Gum graft surgery
- Flap surgery
- Dental implants
If you suspect you have gum disease, contact your Casselman dental clinic and take the necessary steps to prevent this disease from worsening. Good oral health leads to improved overall health.
Dr. Hanan Taraf is an experienced dentist. Her first practice was in Morocco, where she was born and raised. In 2005, she came to Canada, studying at the Université de Montréal where she earned her Canadian DMD Degree, graduating in June of 2010. She’s never stopped learning, however; Dr. Taraf’s dedication to continuing education led her to take further studies so she could offer oral sedation to ensure even the most anxious patients are able to enjoy stress-free treatment. Dr. Taraf is also a graduate from the University of Toronto’s Mini Implant Residency with associate professor Dr. Mark Lin.