Periodontal disease -- or more commonly known as gum disease -- is the most common dental affliction today. It’s a “silent” disease because it’s painless and invisible to the untrained eye in its early stages. Many people are walking around with it, unaware of the irreversible damage that is occurring in their mouth.
Not only is gum disease a frequent cause for tooth loss in adults, but it can also prompt other health issues such as heart disease, kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Regular dental exams and cleanings with a dentist and good oral hygiene practices at home will help reduce your risk for gum disease.
- What is Gum Disease?
- Mouth-Body Connection
What is Gum Disease?
If left to accumulate, the bacteria in plaque can encourage inflammation of your gums. If this inflammation is left untreated it can result in gum disease. Gum disease is characterized by your gum and bone receding from the around your teeth, forming pockets. Food and debris can collect in these pockets developing more bacteria and causing infection. Two things can happen beyond this stage: the gum and bone continue to degenerate releasing their hold and your teeth, allowing them to become loose, possibly falling out. Also, the bacteria can migrate through other parts of your body, introducing further infection and disease.
Gum disease is diagnosed through a periodontal exam. A small probe is used to measure the depth or pocket space between your gums and teeth. The deeper the pockets, the more chance for gum disease – pockets deeper than three millimeters are usually cause for concern.
Dr. Gilbreath or Dr. Craig will perform a visual assessment, looking for inflammation, bleeding, and the texture and color of your gums will be reviewed, along with tooth mobility. It’s imperative to diagnose gum disease early before irreversible damage is done
Treatment of gum disease varies with the severity. If caught in the very early stages of inflammation (gingivitis), one or two dental cleanings by Dr. Gilbreath or Dr. Craig should abort the progress and get your gums healthy again.
If the inflammation has slightly advanced to into gum disease, a deeper cleaning – scaling and root planning – is necessary. This process calls for numbing your gums to remove tartar and plaque above and below the gum line. Dr. Gilbreath or Dr. Craig may also be advise you to use medicated mouth rinses and electric tooth brushes to promote healing and contain infection.
After the scaling and root planning, if your pockets do not heal, periodontal surgery may be required.
Regular twice-daily brushing and flossing is critical to impede gum disease. It only takes 24 hours for plaque to turn into tartar on your teeth and start doing damage.
Along with your home-care cleaning regiment, regular dental exams and cleanings with a dentist are recommended four times a year. Prevention is the cheapest and most reliable way to keep your gums and teeth healthy and strong.
More and more evidence arises that connects poor oral health – including gum disease – to other disease and ailments such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and respiratory diseases. But where is the connection?
If your mouth is not regularly cleaned, the bacteria in your mouth will accumulate and incite infection in the form of gum disease. The mouth is a pathway to the rest of your body, and bacteria can migrate from there to other parts of your body. Leaking into your blood, the bacteria can kick off infections in your heart, brain or lungs, causing disease or even death.
Also, existing ailments such as diabetes or autoimmune diseases lower your body’s ability to fight infections. With your immune system already strained it’s not as strong to fight the bacteria in your mouth.
Anyone, young or old, is susceptible to gum disease if they do not clean and care for their teeth on a regular basis. If your eyes are the window to the soul, then your smile is the door. It’s important to understand the connection between keeping your mouth, body and soul healthy. The dentist can provide you with more in-depth information on your mouth and body connection to overall health.