As children, our main concern when visiting the dentist was cavity detection and prevention. As adults however, the emphasis is on periodontal (gum) disease. Nearly 80% of people over the age of 30 have some form of periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is an infectious and communicable disease caused by millions of bacteria found in the plaque adhering to the teeth, as well as in the pockets surrounding the teeth. As this plaque builds, the bacterial by-products called toxins are released causing inflammation of the gingival tissues around the tooth as well as the break down of the supporting bone. These bacteria can also get into the blood stream from the gums and cause inflammation throughout the body.
Plaque formation on the teeth after eating is normal, but if not removed correctly will lead to one of the forms of periodontal disease.
Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease and is limited to the gum tissue. It is totally reversible with proper brushing and flossing.
The next and more aggressive form of periodontal disease is called periodontitis. With this form, the bacterial infection spreads deeply around the roots of the teeth. The bacterial infection can erode the supporting ligaments and bone that hold the teeth in place. The deepened pockets harbor a more virulent bacteria. As the gums pull away from the teeth and bone loss begins, the teeth eventually loosen, gum abbesses form, bad breath is common and teeth ultimately may need to be removed.
As if losing your teeth wasn’t bad enough, periodontal disease has also been linked to systemic diseases including:
- chronic lung disorders
- heart disease
- low weight and preterm babies
- Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers have made the link between inflammation and these disease states. Therefore, treating inflammation may not only help manage periodontal disease but may also help with the management of other chronic inflammatory conditions, which are why this article is titled, “It Could Save Your Life.”
So what can an individual do to prevent periodontal disease and the other diseases it has been linked to?
The first step is having us evaluate your gums for periodontal disease. The x-rays should be viewed for any possible bone loss, and the pockets around the teeth should be measured in six separate readings per tooth. If there is a tooth mobility, bleeding or pocket depth greater than 4 to 5mm present, non surgical periodontal treatment should be started immediately.
Our office has thorough home care instructions on brushing, flossing and pocket irrigation with an antimicrobial solution to reduce bacterial inflammation.
After educating patients on proper home care, our first line of treatment is non-surgical. We use ultrasonic and hand instruments to remove plaque, calculus (tartar) and bacterial toxins from the tooth and root surfaces as well as the pockets surrounding the teeth. How the individual patient responds to the non-surgical treatment determines what continued maintenance program is required and if further treatment is necessary. Further treatment could consist of medicaments being placed in the gingival pockets, antibiotic therapy, laser treatment or surgical correction of the gum and bone tissues.
Our office has always been committed to assessing our patients’ periodontal health by annually measuring the pocket depths around the teeth and checking for signs of inflammation. According to the American Academy of Periodontology less than 75% of dental offices are evaluating patients for gum disease. We are proud of our efforts to help patients have great periodontal health, as well as healthier lives.
We want you to always feel free to call our office if you have any questions about your dental health.
Drs. Berg & Epakchi have been serving Huntington and the surrounding communities since 1981 & 1997, respectively. Their commitment statement includes: "Our goal is to bring patients the highest quality of dentistry possible through the use of modern, state of the art equipment and techniques in a safe, clean and professional environment."