What Your Dental Professional Wants You to Know
February is Gum Disease Awareness Month and I thought it would be an appropriate time to share my experiences and knowledge of gum disease. As dental health professionals, we refer to gum disease as Periodontal Disease. Periodontal diseases are a group of diseases that affect the tissues that support and anchor the teeth. Left untreated, periodontal disease results in the destruction of the gums, alveolar bone (the part of the jaws where the teeth arise), and the outer layer of the tooth root. While playing a role in the treatment and prevention of periodontal disease, my observations have been:
Gum disease is pretty common. From slight gingivitis causing some bleeding while flossing and tender gum tissue to teeth falling because there was just not enough bone remaining to hold the teeth in.
Patients benefit greatly when we bridge the gap between overall health and dental health. Our periodontal health is a great indicator of our overall health, and vice versa. Though we have come a long way with our dental health education, there is still a great disconnect between dental health and overall health. Separate insurance, separate doctors etc. Receiving comprehensive exams and referrals ensures that patients get the best possible care from both doctor and dentist.
Cigarettes! My patients with severe periodontal disease are most often cigarette smokers. Cigarettes have been my biggest obstacles in helping patients achieve stable periodontal status. It is a sensitive subject to address, and we acknowledge the difficulties in quitting, and the fact is that to have a chance in saving teeth in cases of periodontal disease, smoking cessation must happen.
It is more than just flossing. Sure, removal of bacteria from the mouth is imperative to preventing gum disease, but there are other factors that can be detrimental to the structures surrounding teeth. Clenching, mal aligned teeth, poor diet, mouth breathing, dry mouth, medications and systemic disease can make a regular flosser at risk.
Very few patients come into our office with a good knowledge of what gum/periodontal disease is, how to prevent it, what the symptoms are or even what the status of their own periodontal health is. Prevention of tooth loss from periodontal disease must start with education. It is our jobs as clinicians to thoroughly evaluate periodontal health through annual periodontal charting and x-rays, but if we do not do our job as educators, this data is not very helpful to our patients.
If you have any questions or concerns about gum disease, make an appointment with your hygienist today! Dentistry by Dr. David (978)779-2888