You probably knew that bacteria can grow in a lot of places, but did you know that it can grow in your gums? You probably also knew that keeping your chompers squeaky clean is exceptionally important, but did you also know that sometimes keeping your mouth sparkling isn’t enough to keep this sneaky bacteria at bay? This bacteria, otherwise known as gum disease, can wreak havoc on your mouth, but there are symptoms that you can look out for so you can catch it early.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show there are 64.7 million Americans ages 30 and older who have gum disease, otherwise known as periodontal disease. While the numbers are staggering, some of these folks are completely unaware that they have it. So how can you be sure you’re not a member of this statistic, or if you are, how to tell? Read on to find out.
What is Gum Disease?
“Peri” means around, and “odontal” refers to teeth. Periodontal diseases are infections of the structures around the teeth. These include the gums, the cementum, or surface layer of the tooth root, the periodontal ligament, or connective tissue fibers, and the alveolar bone, or the bone where the root of the tooth connects. In its earliest stages, it’s called gingivitis, which is when the infection affects only the gums. In moderate to advanced forms of the disease, all of the supporting tissues are involved. Clearly, an early catch and a visit to your dentist will help your chances of catching it sooner rather than later.
Signs & Symptoms
Depending on the case and stage you are in, symptoms could vary. Some are very minor, like slight irritation along your gumline or bleeding when you brush or floss. Be careful not to write these symptoms off as having a sensitive mouth or brushing too hard, though, as checking with your dentist will be the safest way to ensure you’re not overlooking something a little more serious.
If you do not see a dentist for treatment and the symptoms persist into more serious symptoms, like pain or swelling, redness, gum recession, bad breath, losing teeth or pus, this means you have let the infection go too long and need to visit the dentist as soon as possible.
The good news is there are plenty of tips on how to prevent gum disease, and they’re super easy! Taking these steps each day will help fight against your chances of gum disease.
- Proper brushing and flossing- brush both upper and lower teeth at a 45-degree angle, moving toward the gumline while using short strokes. Be sure to use the tip of the brush to get those hard to reach places, like behind the front teeth on the top and bottom. Grab some floss and get between your teeth for an optimal clean.
- Regular dental visits- Visit your white-coated friend one to two times per year. Dentists can do a deeper cleaning that you can with a toothbrush, and can also keep disease at bay.
- Kick butt- If you’re a smoker, you may want to kick that bad habit to the curb. Smoking adds to your risk of gum disease and is a major reason some people have mouths that are resistant to treatment for gum disease.
- Take a chill pill- Stressed? Not only is it bad for your heart and general health, but it’s also bad for your teeth and gums! Clenching or grinding teeth, a result of stress, Take part in a relaxing activity, meditate, take deep breaths or do something you enjoy each day to get rid of the tension from the day.
Your dentist will initially look at your entire mouth to get a good idea of what is going on and then formulate a plan for treatment. This could be antibiotics in conjunction with surgical or non-surgical treatments.
If the progression is moderate, the pockets created by the infection under the gumline may need to be cleared and cleaned using a procedure called root planing. These pockets may be filled with antibiotics so that after treatment they continue to maintain their health.
If your condition is severe, you may require more treatment than just antibiotics and a good cleaning. Tissue & Bone Grafts, are when your dentist grafts new tissue to replace what is lost in order to help regenerate any bone or gum tissue lost to periodontitis. Bone grafting is when natural or synthetic bone is placed in an area of bone loss. Things such as proteins that can help your body naturally regrow bone may also be used in conjunction with this. When the gum tissue has been lost, your dentist might suggest a tissue graft, where synthetic material or tissue taken from another part of your mouth is used to cover exposed tooth roots.
Flap Surgery is another common surgery that involves lifting back the gums and removing the tartar. The gums are then put back in place so that the tissue fits snugly around the tooth again. After surgery, the gums will heal and fit more tightly around the tooth.
Feel like you may be someone who is in need of speaking to a dentist about gum disease? Schedule an appointment today with West Chester Dental Arts, and we can evaluate your needs.
At West Chester Dental Arts, we try to find ways to help our patients without dental insurance. Our In-Office Dental Plan is not an insurance, but rather a discount plan, good for treatment completed only at West Chester Dental Arts.