Posts for tag: gum disease
Are bleeding gums something you should be concerned about? Dear Doctor magazine recently posed that question to Dr. Travis Stork, an emergency room physician and host of the syndicated TV show The Doctors. He answered with two questions of his own: “If you started bleeding from your eyeball, would you seek medical attention?” Needless to say, most everyone would. “So,” he asked, “why is it that when we bleed all the time when we floss that we think it’s no big deal?” As it turns out, that’s an excellent question — and one that’s often misunderstood.
First of all, let’s clarify what we mean by “bleeding all the time.” As many as 90 percent of people occasionally experience bleeding gums when they clean their teeth — particularly if they don’t do it often, or are just starting a flossing routine. But if your gums bleed regularly when you brush or floss, it almost certainly means there’s a problem. Many think bleeding gums is a sign they are brushing too hard; this is possible, but unlikely. It’s much more probable that irritated and bleeding gums are a sign of periodontal (gum) disease.
How common is this malady? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, nearly half of allÂ Americans over age 30 have mild, moderate or severe gum disease — and that number increases to 70.1 percent for those over 65! Periodontal disease can occur when a bacteria-rich biofilm in the mouth (also called plaque) is allowed to build up on tooth and gum surfaces. Plaque causes the gums to become inflamed, as the immune system responds to the bacteria. Eventually, this can cause gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, forming bacteria-filled “pockets” under the gum surface. If left untreated, it can lead to more serious infection, and even tooth loss.
What should you do if your gums bleed regularly when brushing or flossing? The first step is to come in for a thorough examination. In combination with a regular oral exam (and possibly x-rays or other diagnostic tests), a simple (and painless) instrument called a periodontal probe can be used to determine how far any periodontal disease may have progressed. Armed with this information, we can determine the most effective way to fight the battle against gum disease.
Above all, don’t wait too long to come in for an exam! As Dr. Stork notes, bleeding gums are “a sign that things aren’t quite right.” Â If you would like more information about bleeding gums, please contact us or schedule an appointment. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bleeding Gums.” You can read the entire interview with Dr. Travis Stork in Dear Doctor magazine.
Nearly half of all Americans have some form of periodontal (gum) disease. Without proper daily hygiene and treatment, this aggressive disease can ultimately cause tooth loss. It also appears the effects of gum disease reach beyond the mouth, as researchers have found relationships between it and other systemic diseases.
Inflammation, the body’s response to infection, is at the center of these relationships. In the case of gum disease, periodontal tissues become inflamed as the body attempts to isolate and fight the infection. If the inflammation becomes chronic, however, it will begin to damage gum tissues.
Inflammation is also a major feature of diabetes, a condition in which the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Without enough of this hormone that transforms sugar into usable energy for the body, the sugar accumulates in the blood stream; as a result, the patient becomes more susceptible to an exaggerated inflammatory response when the body encounters an infection. This is especially true for periodontal infections: the resulting inflammation can be greater and harder to control in diabetic patients. What’s more, uncontrolled gum disease may worsen their blood sugar levels.
Although not as prominent as with diabetes, cardiovascular disease also seems to share a connection with gum disease. This collection of chronic conditions like high blood pressure or restricted blood vessel flow raises the risk of heart attack or stroke. Like gum disease, inflammation is a major component in the progression of cardiovascular disease — in fact, both diseases leave similar chemical “markers” in the blood that indicate their early development.
Ongoing research has also produced some promising treatment findings for both gum disease and inflammatory diseases, which also include osteoporosis, respiratory disease and rheumatoid arthritis. We’re now finding in many cases that treating one side of the disease connection can have positive effects on the other side. For example, diabetics who receive professional treatment for gum disease may see better blood sugar control.
With this in mind, the best approach is to practice effective, daily oral hygiene to reduce the risk of gum disease, coupled with regular office cleanings and checkups. Not only will this help you maintain optimum oral health, it may also contribute to better management of other conditions you may have.
If you would like more information on the relationship between periodontal (gum) disease and other diseases, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Good Oral Health Leads to Better Health Overall.”
You’ve been doing “all the right things” — brushing, flossing, and keeping up regular office cleanings and checkups. But you’re still struggling with gum disease — in fact, you’ve recently noticed loose teeth and other signs of infection.
While the primary cause of gum disease is dental plaque and calculus not adequately removed by regular oral hygiene and cleanings, you may also be among a small group of individuals with other risk factors that can worsen the effects of the disease. One of the most common of these factors isn’t something you can do much about — the physical characteristics you inherited from your parents. In reality, some people are more genetically prone to disease than others because their body doesn’t respond effectively to certain bacteria.
Chronic stress may also play a role in your body’s resistance level: it can both increase your risk for the disease and magnify its effects. In addition, the type of bacteria causing the disease could be a factor — our mouths contain thousands of strains, with some bacteria more difficult to control than others.
If your gum disease persists regardless of all our best efforts, we may be able to test for whether any of these other factors are involved. Determining the presence of any of these underlying factors can help us fine-tune our treatment approach.
You should know, however, that it might not be possible to effectively address every factor involved. If that’s the case, at some point it may be necessary to consider a tooth replacement option. The best choice by far are dental implants — not only are they functional and life-like in appearance, with proper care they could foster a healthier environment in your mouth by being stronger and more durable than the diseased teeth they’ve replaced.
Our ultimate goal as dentists is to alleviate gum disease and restore health and function to your teeth and gums. If that isn’t completely possible due to uncontrollable factors, we then adopt a strategy to control the disease as much as possible to preserve your teeth for as long as is prudent. This can give you time, then, to prepare yourself mentally, emotionally and financially for future teeth replacement and restoration.
If you would like more information on periodontal disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Periodontal (Gum) Treatment and Expectations.”