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Periodontal disease, are you at risk? Why you should be concerned…

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Periodontal disease, are you at risk? Why you should be concerned…

When’s the last time you thought about the role your gums play in your overall health? We know that bleeding or sensitive gums are a sign of gingivitis, but most of us wait until something more serious happens before doing something about it.  Tooth loss can occur without treatment and that’s scary enough, but did you know that gum disease can also increase your risk of more serious conditions such as heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer’s? Genetics, lifestyle, medication and existing conditions such as diabetes and pregnancy can influence gum health. While you can’t change your genes, you can alter certain habits and lifestyle practises that may be putting you at higher risk for developing periodontal disease and the complications that come with it. Read on to find out if you’re at risk, what you can do about it, and how periodontal gum therapy with one of our experienced periodontists can help treat existing disease.

As discussed in a previous post on Dental Hygiene, gum disease may increase risks of developing a number of serious health conditions such as: heart disease, stroke, pneumonia, other respiratory diseases, and cause complications in diabetics an pregnant women.

According to the ODHA, (Ontario Dental Hygienists’ Association) If you have gum disease, the bacteria from swollen or bleeding gums can travel through the bloodstream, potentially worsening or causing other types of health problems.

What is Periodontal Gum Therapy?

“Perio” means around, and “dontal” refers to teeth. Periodontal diseases are infections of the structures around the teeth, which include the gums, periodontal ligament and alveolar bone. In the earliest stage of periodontal disease — gingivitis — the infection affects the gums. In more severe forms of the disease, all of the tissues are involved.

Periodontal Gum Therapy, is the treatment of gum disease by a periodontist, a trained specialist in this area of dentistry. Treatment may include surgical and non-surgical solutions.

Non-surgical treatment may include deep cleaning and scaling—removing plaque and bacteria to allow for the gum tissue to heal—localized antibiotics, and being fitted for appliances to prevent teeth grinding which also contributes to gum loss. When deep cleaning isn’t enough surgery might be needed. Periodontal Surgical procedures range from a gum graft to prevent further recession, crown lengthening, implants and more.

How does gum disease develop?

The ODHA states that, gum disease starts with the formation of hard and soft deposits on the surface of the teeth. Over time, a buildup of bacteria (plaque) collects at the gum line, eventually hardening into calculus or tartar build-up. Without proper oral care, these bacteria can cause inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), penetrate the gum line and finally spread into the underlying bone (periodontitis).

If left untreated, the infection can eventually lead to shrinking and/or swelling, bleeding gums, loose teeth, abscesses, loss of teeth and disease.

Can gum disease be reversed?

With regular, proper home and professional oral care, gum disease can be controlled and sometimes even stopped or reversed. Discuss treatment options with one of our trained periodontists who specialize in this area of dentistry. Again, if you have gum disease and have other risk factors for heart disease, stroke or respiratory diseases, (smoking, weight, family history, diabetes) it is particularly important to pay attention to your oral health and visit your dentist and hygienist more frequently.

What are some risk factors that contribute to gum disease?

According to the Colgate Professional website, certain populations are at a higher risk for gum disease due to  lifestyle, genetics, and disease. Below is a list of contributing factors they cite as contributing to periodontal disease.

Genetics — Researchers believe up to 30% of the population may have a genetic susceptibility to periodontal disease. Having a genetic susceptibility doesn’t mean gum disease is inevitable. Even people who are highly prone to periodontal disease because of their genetic make-up can prevent or control the disease with good oral care.

Smoking and tobacco use — Smoking increases the risk of periodontal disease and the longer, and more one smokes, the higher the risk. If periodontal disease is present, smoking makes it more severe. Smoking is the main cause of periodontal disease that is resistant to treatment. Smokers tend to collect more tartar on their teeth, develop deeper periodontal pockets once they have gum disease and are likely to lose more bone as the disease progresses. Quitting smoking can play a major role in bringing periodontal disease under control.

Misaligned or crowded teeth, braces or bridgework — Anything that makes it more difficult to brush or floss your teeth is likely to enhance plaque and tartar formation above and below the gum line, increasing your chance of developing gum disease. Our periodontists can show you the best ways to clean your teeth, especially in hard-to-clean circumstances. For example, there are special tools and ways of threading floss to clean around bridgework or slide under braces. And if overcrowded or crooked teeth are a problem, your dentist might recommend orthodontics to straighten out your smile and increase your odds of preventing disease.

Grinding, gritting or clenching of teeth — These habits won’t cause periodontal disease but they can lead to more severe disease if inflammation is already present. The excessive force exerted on the teeth by these habits appears to speed up the breakdown of the periodontal ligament and bone. A periodontist can create a custom mouth or bite guard to reduce the pressure of clenching or grinding on the teeth.

Stress — Stress can worsen periodontal disease and make it harder to treat. Stress weakens your body’s immune system, which makes it harder for your body to fight off infection, including periodontal disease.

Fluctuating hormones — Whenever hormones fluctuate in the body, changes can occur in the mouth. Puberty and pregnancy can temporarily increase the risk and severity of gum disease, as can menopause.

Medications — Several types of medications can cause dry mouth including: antidepressants, diuretics and high blood-pressure medications. Without the protection of adequate amounts of saliva, plaque is more likely to form. Other medications may cause the gums to enlarge, which in turn makes them more likely to trap plaque including some immune system blockers and heart medications. Talk to your periodontist to see if your medication is contributing to one of these conditions.

Diseases —People with diabetes are more likely to get periodontitis, and it’s likely to be more severe. Other diseases, such as leukemia, inflammatory bowel disease and HIV infection, also can increase the risk. Having one of these diseases will make control of periodontal disease more difficult, but a good periodontist or dentist who is aware of the additional risks and difficulties should be able to offer the kind of guidance needed to maintain your periodontal health.

Poor nutrition — Nutrition is important for overall good health, including a working immune system and healthy gums and mouth.

By practising good oral hygiene and regularly visiting your hygienist you can increase your odds of keeping your gums healthy. Sometimes in spite of our best efforts, periodontal disease will still develop since other factors such as those listed above can negatively influence oral health. If it happens, we’re here to help before it leads to something more serious. Contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your gum and oral health.