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Dr Julie Savage

 

 

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Gum (Periodontal) Health

Unhealthy gums have been linked to serious medical conditions such as heart disease, strokes, low birth weight babies and premature births. Furthermore, loss of teeth caused by gum disease can lead to other problems for example; broken teeth caused by the additional loading forces, bite and painful jaw problems, food packing, decay and bad breath. Disease associated with the gums and bone supporting the teeth is called periodontal disease.

What is periodontal disease?

The word periodontal means "around the tooth". Periodontal disease occurs when bacterial gum infections destroy the gums and supporting bone that hold the teeth in the mouth. Bacterial plaque is a sticky colourless film that constantly forms on the teeth. If it is not removed it turns into a hard substance called tartar or calculus in less that two days. The bacteria in plaque infect the gums and release toxins that cause redness and inflammation. This condition is known as gingivitis.

The inflammation and toxins cause destruction of the tissues that support the teeth including the bone. This is called periodontitis. Then the gums separate microscopically from the tooth, forming pockets that fill with even more plaque, causing even more infection. Eventually the tooth becomes loose as all the bone is destroyed. Finally the tooth is lost. In some cases an abscess, which may be painful, will precede this but often there is no pain associated with periodontal disease.

There are multiple factors that can affect the health of your gums.

GENETICS and a family history of periodontal disease indicate a greater likelihood of developing these diseases.

SYSTEMIC DISEASES that interfere with the immune system can worsen the condition of the gums and supporting bone.

SMOKING and tobacco use both increase the risk of developing periodontal disease and can reduce effectiveness of treatment.

MEDICATIONS such as antidepressants, oral contraceptives, and some heart medications can have an effect on periodontal health.

HORMONAL CHANGES during puberty, pregnancy or menopause can result in gums becoming tender and more susceptible to bleeding.

DESTRUCTIVE HABITS such as drug and alcohol abuse, oral piercing and incorrect oral hygiene techniques can adversely affect periodontal health.

STRESS reduces the ability of the immune system to fight off periodontal disease.

POOR NUTRITION reduces the body’s ability to ward off infection.

How can I prevent periodontal disease?

Good oral hygiene and professional dental care are the important factors in keeping your teeth for a lifetime.

Removal of the bacteria that cause gingivitis is best achieved with regular brushing and flossing. Brushing alone will not remove bacteria and debris between the teeth as the toothbrush bristles cannot physically get between the teeth. Flossing removes the bacteria and debris between the teeth. Recent research shows that powered toothbrushes are more effective than manual toothbrushes at removing plaque and debris, but they must be placed on all tooth surfaces to be effective. Other cleaning aids such as interproximal brushes and floss threaders are used in specific applications such as large spaces between the teeth and under bridges respectively.

Good oral hygiene habits will help keep the formation of dental calculus to a minimum. Regular dental visits are important to detect any changes in periodontal health and to remove hardened deposits of tartar. Generally professional cleaning is recommended every 6 months, however depending on your overall health, some people will require 3, 4 or 12 month continuous care programs.


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