Uplus Dental – Gum Disease & Prevention Tips
Even with good oral hygiene, the likelihood of gum disease is common. Typical signs of gum disease include swollen and red gums which bleed when brushed or flossed.
The earliest form of gum disease is known as Gingivitis where your gums are irritated by plaque, which is a combination of food, bacteria and their waste products which can build up on your teeth everyday. If the plaque isn’t efficiently removed from the teeth regularly, it can work underneath your gum line, causing your gums to become red, swollen and they may bleed when you brush them. However, this is a completely reversible situation and your gums will recover if you clean teeth and gums effectively to remove the plaque.
Unfortunately if gingivitis is not treated, it progresses to Periodontitis. This disease affects the supporting tissues which hold the teeth in place. In Periodontitis the gums come away from the teeth, causing pockets to develop. Plaque then accumulates on the teeth under the gumline and hardens up into calculus (tartar). As this is in a position where your toothbrush cannot reach, the plaque causes further damage to your gums, causing the pockets to become deeper and eventually damages the bone supporting the teeth. As the bone is destroyed around the teeth, the gums recede, causing sensitivity and the teeth become looser, eventually falling out or needing extraction. Periodontitis is irreversible and treatment is aimed at stabilising the situation and preventing it getting worse.
Signs & Symptoms of Gum Disease
It’s important to understand that you can have periodontal disease with no obvious symptoms, especially if you are a smoker (nicotine reduces blood supply preventing bleeding and swelling of the gum tissues). Still, there are some important things to look for:
- Red and swollen gums — Inflammation of the gums is usually the first visible sign of periodontal disease.
- Bleeding gums on brushing – Some people think that when their gums bleed, it simply means they’re brushing too hard. While brushing too hard is bad for the gums, it should not cause bleeding. Any bleeding of the gums should be considered a warning sign of gum disease.
- Bad breath — It’s very easy for plaque to collect in the spaces between the teeth, creating the perfect living conditions for bacteria that produce odorous, sulfur-containing compounds, resulting in bad breath.
- Loose teeth — When periodontal disease results in bone loss, teeth can become loose or migrate. Tooth loss can result and may be accelerated if you are applying excessive biting forces from clenching or grinding your teeth.
- Sensitivity — If there is gum recession, the exposed roots may become sensitive to hot or cold.
- Receding gums — If you notice that your teeth look longer than they used to, it may be that your gum tissue has receded (away from the enamel), exposing some of your tooth roots.
- Gum abscesses — Bacteria can become enclosed in a periodontal pocket and the area will fill with pus, becoming swollen and painful.
Cause of Gum Disease
Gum disease is usually caused by a variety of factors. The most common being:
Poor dental hygiene – Preventing dental disease starts at home with good oral hygiene and a balanced diet. Prevention also includes regular dental cleanings. A combination of excellent home care and professional dental care will preserve the natural dentition and support of bony structures. When bacteria and calculus (tartar) are not removed, the gums and bone around the teeth become affected by bacterial toxins and can cause gingivitis or periodontitis, which ultimately can lead to tooth loss.
- Tobacco use – Research has indicated that smoking and tobacco use are some of the most significant factors in the development and progression of gum disease. In addition to smokers experiencing a slower recovery and healing rate, smokers are far more likely to suffer from calculus (tartar) build-up on teeth, deep pockets in the gingival tissue, and significant bone loss.
- Genetic predisposition – Despite practicing rigorous oral hygiene routines, as much as 30% of the population may have a strong genetic predisposition to gum disease. These individuals are six times more likely to develop periodontal disease than individuals with no genetic predisposition. Genetic tests can be used to determine susceptibility and early intervention can be performed to keep the oral cavity healthy.
- Pregnancy and menopause – During pregnancy, regular brushing and flossing is critical. Hormonal changes experienced by the body can cause the gum tissue to become more sensitive, rendering them more susceptible to gum disease.
- Chronic stress and poor diet – Stress lowers the ability of the immune system to fight off disease which means bacterial infection can beat the body’s defense system. Poor diet or malnutrition can also lower the body’s ability to fight periodontal infections, as well as negatively affecting the health of the gums.
- Diabetes and underlying medical issues – Many medical conditions can intensify or accelerate the onset and progression of gum disease including respiratory disease, heart disease, arthritis, and osteoporosis. Diabetes hinders the body’s ability to utilize insulin which makes the bacterial infection in the gums more difficult to control and cure.
- Grinding teeth – The clenching or grinding of teeth can significantly damage the supporting tissue surrounding the teeth. Grinding one’s teeth is usually associated with malocclusion or the misalignment of the teeth. When an individual is suffering from gum disease, the additional destruction of gingival tissue due to grinding can accelerate the progression of the disease.
Medication – Many drugs including oral contraceptive pills, heart medicines, anti-depressants, and steroids affect the overall condition of teeth and gums, making them more susceptible to gum disease. Steroid use promotes gingival overgrowth, which makes swelling more likely and allows bacteria to colonize more readily in the gum tissue.
Preventing gum disease
Prevention is always better than cure and gum disease is no exception. Brushing your teeth for two minutes at least twice a day and flossing daily will help prevent periodontal problems. However, it can be difficult to detect the early signs of gum disease and, therefore, it is important to visit your dentist and hygienist regularly. If you think you have early signs of gum disease, don’t put treatment off. Seek help today from the Uplus Dental to minimise the damage it can cause.
What will Uplus Dental do for you?
At every check-up, the dentist will check for gum disease. This will firstly involve a visual inspection of your gums to note any swelling, bleeding, signs of pus, gum recession and loose teeth. The dentist will also use a periodontal probe to check for any pocketing between the gums and teeth and also use x-rays to determine if there has been any bone loss.
Treatment of Gum Disease
The treatment of gum disease depends on the severity. Some of the best ways of preventing and treating early forms of gum disease are attending regular dental check-ups, maintaining a high standard of oral hygiene (brushing twice a day and flossing daily), stopping smoking and visiting the dental hygienist at least twice a year. At Uplus Dental, our qualified dentists are specially trained experts in the prevention and treatment of gum disease. Initially, the dentist will carefully assess all your gums and teeth, followed by educating you on the use of manual and electric toothbrushes, floss, Interdental brushes, mouthwashes and other cleaning aids in a way that is tailored specifically to you. The dentist will then thoroughly deep clean your teeth to remove the plaque and tartar, followed by polishing your teeth. If you have periodontitis, you may require more complex treatment to remove the plaque and tartar from the root surfaces. This is called root surface debridement (RSD) and may occur over several appointments. During RSD, the dentist will inject some local anaesthetic to numb your gums. She will then carry out a full dental pocket chart (DPC) to assess the depths of the pockets around each tooth, followed by thorough cleaning of the root surfaces. The severity of your gum disease and the standard of your cleaning will determine how often you would need to visit the dentist. In cases of severe periodontitis where the disease is not responding to conventional treatment, you may be referred to a specialist periodontist.
Can Gum Disease Affect Your Heart Health?
We are all used to follow instructions from our dentist or oral hygienist. We brush and floss, we avoid extreme temperatures and we use oral showers, but many of us don’t actually realize all these habits help us keep our heart healthy, too.
Research has evidenced multiple connections between our oral health and the state of our heart. Actually, there’s clear evidence that people who suffer from any form of gum disease, be it mild gingivitis or severe periodontitis, have almost double the risk to develop heart disease, compared to people with a good oral health.
Conversely, a study done on 320 adults, half of them suffering from heart disease, has found that these subjects were also more likely to suffer from bleeding gums, tooth loss and gum disease.
Unfortunately, although the link is clearly established, scientists have yet to discover which is the connection between the two conditions.
Is It Possible That Gum Disease Gives You A Heart Attack?
According to Medical experts, there is a clearly logical reason why the two of them are so closely related. They believe that inflammation is probably one of the main triggers of cardiovascular disease.
We all have some naturally occurring bacteria in our mouth, but when we skip brushing or flossing, plaque isn’t properly removed anymore, thus increasing our risk for developing gum disease. Once bacteria found their way to the gum tissue, they are going to thrive and multiply, making the situation even worse.
Since such conditions usually cause gum bleeding, bacteria can easily enter the bloodstream, thus triggering an inflammatory process that affects blood vessels, thus causing circulatory troubles.
Nonetheless, scientists say further research is needed in order to be able to prove that gum disease is with certainty a cause of heart disease. Since long-term clinical trials require a long period of time, we are going to wait for a while until being able to see such results.
At the same time, researchers are investigating possible links between gum disease and other medical conditions such as stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, respiratory disease and even preterm births.
What To Do To Protect Yourself And Your Heart
Statistics show that half of the total population over 55 years of age suffer from gum disease. Moreover, this is the main reason why people 35 and older lose their teeth.
As we get older, our gum disease risk increases. However, it is very important that we maintain a good oral health since our childhood years. By following the brushing and flossing recommendations, we can delay the onset of the gum disease or even prevent it completely.
This is the list of symptoms which need to be addressed urgently by getting in touch with your dentist, as they could be early signs of gum disease:
– A permanent sour taste in your mouth
– Bad breath that persists despite a good oral hygiene
– Bleeding gums
– Swollen or purple gums
– Loose teeth
– An increased teeth sensitivity
– Pains when chewing
Keep in mind that by preventing or treating your gum disease you might actually do a big favor to your heart.