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Gum Disease

WHAT IS GUM DISEASE?  Why is it SO IMPORTANT?

Gum Disease is  the name often given to two conditions which can occur in the gums and  supporting bone surrounding  our teeth namely  Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and Periodontal Disease ( when supporting bone is also eroded away )

What is the link between Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal Disease will always start with Gingivitis, however not everyone who gets gingivitis will progress to have periodontal disease, which is  more damaging and is therefore a more  serious disease. There are many factors  which can influence whether gingivitis progresses to periodontal disease. At Crescent Dental health our intention   is always to prevent either condition at the earliest possible stage. We will always examine your gums when we examine your teeth and we also have a dental hygienist on our team to provide additional support  in prevention and treatment of “gum disease”

GINGIVITIS.

This is inflammation of the gums, it is caused by plaque (bacteria) forming around the teeth, and  the subsequent release of toxins leads to the gums becoming swollen and inflammed in response.  Inflammed gums bleed more easily and this is often the first sign patients become aware of since in the early stages most gum conditions are painless.

Inflammation and bleeding can be an indication that an alteration or change in your oral hygiene ( brushing, flossing rinsing) regime  is required to restore balance and health .

It is an understandable misconception  when patients assume it is wise to avoid a bleeding area, but the opposite is  in fact the case  – if an area is bleeding this can frequently be remedied with improved regular flushing and flossing of the area  in as little as 4 to 7 days . If the teeth  already have a  layer of hardened  plaque( frequently referred to as tartar ) then you may need to have it removed carefully by our hygienist first.

PERIODONTAL DISEASE.

After tooth decay, periodontal disease is the most common disease in the mouth and is responsible for most of the teeth lost in adults since it attacks the supporting bone which hold the teeth securely in position.

Teeth are actually suspended in bone by a web of fibres (called the periodontal ligaments) this ligament  also contain blood vessels and nerve fibres. The periodontal ligaments act like a shock absorber for the teeth, the nerve fibres allow us to feel how hard we bite and the blood vessels protect and nourish the bone and ligaments.

Periodontal Disease, attacks all these structures eating away the supporting bone and cutting the attaching ligaments until the tooth becomes increasingly loosened and ultimately requires  extraction.

 

Periodontal disease is not predictable and varies greatly from individual to individual. It can affect   a single surface of a tooth, a single tooth unit or indeed many teeth. It is particularly challenging as it can progress, destroying tissues, without symptoms or obvious signs in the mouth.  It is really  important therefore  to have your teeth and gums regularly inspected.

Periodontal disease will always start with an accumulation of bacteria around the teeth and a reactive gingivitis. In some patients the damage is limited to this degree and yet in others  for various reasons  gingivitis does progress to periodontal disease. We are only beginning to understand why this happens to some and not to others  and this is the subject of worldwide research.

HOW IMPORTANT IS PERIODONTAL HEALTH ?

 

Periodontal Disease is very damaging, we consider it a window on the health of the body. This works both ways in that  periodontal health can be affected by poor general health and general health can be greatly affected by an unhealthy mouth. To quote the former U.S Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop “A person can’t have good general health without good Oral Health”

This is far from new thinking, from Ancient Greece we have  records of Hippocrates curing two patients of joint pain by extracting infected teeth. There was a great deal of research between the 1920-1950’s by dentists on the effect of gum disease on general health. In the late 80’s this was taken up and extended by both dentists and various medical specialists who have demonstrated a strong and extensively researched relationship between Periodontal Disease and; Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease as well as Adverse Outcomes in Pregnancy. They are now looking at links with Osteoporosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and certain forms of cancer.

HOW DO THE GUMS HAVE SUCH AN EFFECT ON THE REST OF THE BODY? 

The gums are red in colour because they have an extensive blood supply and very thin tissues linings, we know that even in  a healthy mouth some bacteria  can cross from the mouth into the blood stream and is carried away swiftly to circulate in the rest of the body.

In the case of someone who has periodontal disease, the gums are inflammed and both bacteria and toxins they produce may also pass more easily into the blood stream. When Periodontal Disease is active in the mouth then there is a shift in balance between healthy bacteria and disease causing bacteria . It is the passage of these disease causing bacteria  and their harmful products into the blood stream that are  linked to the progression of other systemic diseases.

EFFECTS OF GUM DISEASE AND HEALTH RISKS

People who have established Periodontal Disease have an increased risk of suffering;

168% increased risk of heart attack (42% increase if gingivitis alone)

250% increase in risk of stroke

300% increase in the risk of diabetes

500% increase in risk of respiratory infections/disease

700% increase in chance of a premature birth in pregnant women

Harvard studies are strongly suggesting an increased risk of certain types of cancer

 

HOW CAN I KEEP MY GUMS HEALTHY?

Good brushing and flossing along with regular checkups and professional  cleaning with our dentist or hygienist is  certainly the most reliable way known  to  maintain good  gum health. Since individuals show varying degrees of susceptibility and also vary in their ability to clean their teeth effectively  how often you should attend for a professional clean  will be assessed on an individual basis.  This is reviewed on an ongoing basis and as your home maintenance and confidence improve we will often reduce the frequency of your professional cleans.

There are known risks for gum disease and these should be limited or avoided;

Smoking, you are (x5) times more likely to get gum disease.

Diabetes, diabetics are (x2) times more likely to get gum disease, if you are diabetic the dentist will arrange a strict recall/treatment regimen to keep your gums healthy.

Stress, you (x2) times more likely to get gum disease, again stress affects many areas of health and your doctor can advise on measures to reduce this like meditation, exercise.

Nutritional Deficiency, a poor quality diet or obesity makes you (x2) times more likely to suffer gum disease.

These factors also combine, someone who is diabetic and smokes are (x20) times more likely to have gum disease.

Some drugs will leave you more prone and unfortunately  some people are genetically predisposed to gum disease.

For all of these reasons  attending regularly for a check up and letting your dentist know of any  change to your medications or any recreational drugs you are taking is so important.