What is gum disease and how is it caused?
Gum disease is now the most common reason for tooth loss and can affect us all. It is also both preventable and controllable, 75% of people over 35 years of age either have or have experienced gum disease previously.
Contributing factors of gum disease include poor oral hygiene, malocclusions (overlapping teeth creating food/plaque traps) and overhanging restorations.
A high sugar intake will increase the amount and rate of plaque growth. Smoking (and tobacco chewing) reduces our natural immunity and can damage gum tissue, cause diabetes and some blood disorders (by lowering resistance to infection).
Prescription drug use and hormone fluctuations may also have some side effects - consult your (GP) Doctor.
Gum disease has recently been linked to heart disease and stroke. It can cause premature births. It is highly recommended you visit your hygienist while pregnant, to ensure good health of your gums.
Gum disease is contagious therefore can be passed on to others through kissing or sharing food and drink.
It is also the major cause of (halitosis) bad breath.
Stages of gum disease:
There are several stages of gum disease, the first being gingivitis. If plaque is left around the necks of, or between the teeth bacteria present will cause inflammation, bleeding and swelling. If left untreated, the condition develops into periodontitis where the bacterial toxins attack the inflamed gums, ligaments and bone structure supporting the teeth.
At this stage, the process may not be reversed, but it can be controlled, to prevent further damage and spreading.
If left, the damaging process continues and the result is, loss
The hygienist's role in your dental health:
Your hygienist is specifically trained to look after your gums. Healthy gums help save teeth. She will check the pockets where plaque and bacteria collect, scale around the necks of the teeth and carry out deep scaling where necessary (removing calculus that adheres to the roots of your teeth). She will smooth any overhangs or rough areas on the teeth to help prevent further plaque build up in these areas.
As the gum tissues heal, you may find that the profile of the gum against the tooth may change. This is part of the healing process.
She will also give instruction on oral hygiene practices, tools, toothpastes, and mouth rinses if necessary and advise if further treatment is required either with herself, your dentist, or a referral to a (specialist) periodontist.
If your teeth are particularly sensitive and you require a local anaesthetic, the hygienist will either do this for you or arrange this through a dentist.
Important points to remember:
- Good oral hygiene is essential
- A diet high in fruit and vegetables
- Be sure to control your sugar intake
- Refrain from smoking if possible
- Gum disease is contagious
- Check with your Doctor if you notice swollen or bleeding gums with medication
- Bad breath is almost always a sign of gum disease
- Visit your Dentist and Hygienist regularly.