Periodontal (gum) disease affects over half of the U.S. adult population. If you brush and floss your teeth and go to the dentist regularly, you might think you won’t be susceptible to gum disease. And to some degree, this may be true. But at our dental office, we’re taking a stance to help educate patients on the risks and symptoms of gum disease.
So what exactly does this mean? And what does it mean for your dental health?
Before we discuss steps to fight periodontal or gum disease, let’s talk about what it is to make sure you have a more thorough understanding of this common dental problem.
Gum disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting your teeth.
Gum disease is also known as periodontal disease. It’s a chronic inflammatory disease caused by plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on the teeth. For adults, it is a major cause of tooth loss, so it’s imperative to pay attention to this issue.
Periodontal disease affects over half the U.S. adult population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Usually, gum disease can be painless, making it hard for people to know if they have it.
Warning Signs of Gum Disease
Gums that bleed easily
Red, swollen, tender gums
Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
A change in the fit of partial dentures
It is possible to have gum disease with no warning signs. So regular dental checkups are necessary.
The early stage of gum disease is gingivitis.
When you have gingivitis, your gums may become red, swollen, and bleed easily. At this stage, gum disease is reversible and can usually be eliminated with a professional cleaning at a dentist office, followed by daily brushing and flossing.
Advanced gum disease is called periodontitis.
Chronic periodontitis can lead to the loss of tissue and bone that supports the teeth. Over time, your teeth may feel loose and start moving around in your mouth. If periodontitis becomes more aggressive, it can cause more serious destruction, even if you feel healthy.
Preventing gum disease
One of the best ways to prevent periodontal disease is to practice good oral hygiene consistently throughout your life. This means brushing your teeth at least twice daily and flossing at least once per day. You’ll also want to see your dentist regularly for check ups and cleanings.
But if you have risk factors that increase your chance of developing gum disease — such as dry mouth, taking certain blood pressure medicines, or smoking — you may need professional cleaning more often.
A study published in the Journal of Dental Research shows that people who are at high-risk of gum disease benefit from seeing a dentist twice per year, and people with more than a single risk factor probably need more than two yearly visits.
The risk factors in the study are:
Having the interleukin-1 genotype
The following are some other steps you can take to keep your teeth and gums healthy:
Eat and drink healthy. Certain foods can promote teeth and gum health, according to a study in the Journal of Periodontology. These foods contain omega-3, calcium, and vitamin D, and honey.
Exercise frequently. Regular exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight and may reduce your risk of periodontal disease. Another study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that people who maintained a healthy weight and had high levels of physical fitness had a lower occurrence of severe periodontitis.
Stress less. Stress can lead to gum disease. Research published in the JOP showed a relationship between stress and periodontal disease. Also, stressed out people are less likely to practice good oral hygiene.
Stop smoking. Smoking is a major risk factor for gum disease.
Why don’t good oral care and regular dental visits always prevent gum disease?
It is possible for gum disease to occur in people who try to maintain good oral hygiene. There is a bacterial component to gum disease, but there is also also a genetic factor.
Soon our office will be able to do oral DNA testing. This way we will take a saliva sample, send it to a company for DNA analysis, and be able to tell our patients whether this person is likely to get gum disease.
If you are more likely to get gum disease, you will have to work harder to keep your teeth and your mouth healthy.
What About Cavities?
The same idea works for cavities. People think if they brush, floss, go to the dentist, and don’t eat sugar, they won’t have cavities. But this isn’t entirely true either.
What we’ve found is that, with cavities, decay is really a biofilm disease. And if you don’t know what a biofilm is, leave a glass of water sitting on your dresser for a few days, and then stick your finger inside the water and feel the slimy layer. That’s a biofilm.
Anywhere there is fluid, biofilm will form. In your mouth, the type of bacteria in your biofilm determines whether you’re going to have decay.
Another thing to consider is the pH of your mouth. On the pH scale, seven is considered neutral, and anything with a lower number is acidic. If a person’s acid level goes below 5.5, they will be more prone to decay. So with these patients, we have to work with them on controlling their pH balance in their mouth.
Dentists often told people with tooth decay, “You’re not brushing and flossing.” But the person was thinking, “Yes I am.” In this case, the person probably needed to control their daily habits to improve oral health.
Some things that these people can do: watch their diet and limit their snacks between meals.
At our dentist office, we practice integrative dentistry— we’re not only going to repair the situation, but we’re going to look at each patient and determine what really caused the issue.
A big misconception many patients have
Say a person has a cavity. They go to the dentist, and the dentist does a beautiful job with their filling. The person then thinks, “Ah, the problem is solved.” But the dentist didn’t get rid of the disease. He simply repaired the damage.
It’s like going around your house and finding rotten wood. You realize you have termites, so you scrape all the dead wood out and putty it and paint it.
Well, you didn’t get rid of the termite problem; you only got rid of the damage. So to solve the problem, you need to get rid of the termites and also repair the damage to the wood.
What Does This Mean For You?
What this model of care means for you is that, yes, you need to take care of your mouth and visit the dentist, but there are additional factors to consider.
Let Lifetime Smiles care for you and your teeth in an integrative way
At our dental office in Johns Creek, we will clean and examine your teeth, but we’re also going to consider other factors, such as genetics and the pH environment of your mouth. Plus, we offer comprehensive dentistry, so we can take care of all your oral health needs.
When you visit our office, you will receive personalized care for all your dental procedures. Our staff is friendly. Our dentist, Dr. Forester, has more than 30 years of experience and is well educated, trained and respected in the community.
When you choose Lifetime Smiles, we welcome you with open arms. Call 770-282-9239 and schedule an appointment today. We want you to have a healthy smile for a lifetime!