Healthy Gums – Healthy You!

Posted by on Feb 25, 2015 in Dental Health | 0 comments

Periodontal health involves two general areas, the gums (soft tissue) and the underlying bone support of the teeth (hard tissue).  Periodontal health is not only important for your teeth but also to your general health.

To evaluate periodontal health, Dr. Schnur examines the gums and bone support as part of the dental exam.  Like most health problems, periodontal problems are best diagnosed and treated early.  To help understand the importance of early treatment of gum disease, a good medical analogy is high blood pressure.  Patients commonly don’t have pain and can’t tell they have high blood pressure unless diagnosed with an exam.  High blood pressure, if undiagnosed, may go unnoticed for quite some time until it results in a much larger problem like heart attack or stroke.  Because there is frequently no pain and no tooth mobility in the early and moderate stages, gum disease or periodontitis it is often unnoticed by the patient without a diagnosis from the dentist.   It is usually only in the late stages of gum disease that patients would have pain from infection or tooth mobility from advanced bone loss.  Consequently, if diagnosed, delaying treatment until something hurts is waiting until it’s too late with gum disease.  Keeping gums healthy and comfortable is best served by early diagnosis and early treatment if necessary.

An evaluation of the health of the gums is done by assessing several factors.  Among these are checking tooth mobility, swelling or bleeding of the gums (inflammation/gingivitis), and or bone recession under the gums  (periodontitis).  There is an evaluation of the bone support of the teeth as part of the xray exam and an evaluation of the gums by checking for any swelling or inflammation with a visual exam.

Gum disease is primarily caused by bacteria.  There are other factors such as genetics, smoking, and immune system deficiencies but the main cause is bacterial infection.  The bacteria cause inflammation and a long term low grade (often painless) infection in the gums.  Often, the immune system responds by trying to get rid of the infection by receding the bone under the gums in attempt to draw the body away from the bacteria around the teeth.  Unfortunately this bone loss can result in pocketing between the tooth and gums which harbors more bacteria, or it can progress to cause loose teeth or tooth loss.  Treatment involves removing the bacteria through professional cleaning, sometimes along with antibiotics or antiseptic rinses.  Occasionally, surgical correction of  pockets is considered to improve access for treatment and maintenance.  Laser treatment to disinfect gum pockets can be considered in some cases.  Most times gum treatment can completed in our office.  In advanced cases, or sometimes if there is a problem area that persists we will advise to consult with a periodontist (gum specialist) and coordinate treatment between the two offices.

We think the best course of action is prevention through exam, professional cleanings, and most importantly excellent patient hygiene.  In cases where a problem is found, Dr. Schnur and his team will be happy to spend time answering questions and consulting on a plan of action for have healthy gums for a healthy you!

More information about healthy gums can be found at the website for the American Academy of Periodontology.

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