Sure, most of us brush our teeth at least once a day (maybe lackadaisically, but we still brush). And since we aren’t getting cavities any more (we’re brushing, after all!) we assume that we’re home free.
Hardly. If we don’t take care of our gums as we get older we very likely will lose at least one tooth after 65 – if not sooner.
What’s more, gum disease – its clinical term is periodontal disease – can also lead to other health risks such as heart attack and stroke.
Periodontal disease starts out as gingivitis – the least severe form of the disease. Symptoms can include swelling, redness, and bleeding gums (often when you brush your teeth). You’ll probably feel no pain with gingivitis, but if left untreated (and most people can take care of gingivitis with better oral care under the direction of their Keller dentist), it can develop into periodontitis.
This happens because plaque spreads beneath your gum line and the toxins produced by plaque cause irritation. Your body responds with inflammation, causing the tissue and bone beneath your teeth to degrade, with your teeth and gums growing more and more separate from each other. Infection can set in and the cycle continues, with the destruction of more supporting tissue and bone. Given enough time, your teeth can loosen and need to be removed.
But wait! There’s more: there are multiple types of periodontitis. What’s known as aggressive periodontitis usually shows up in healthy people. This type of periodontitis is characterized by rapid destruction of bone and loss of attachment. Chronic periodontitis is the most common type and it’s known for the inflammation of supporting tissue and a slow progression of attachment loss.
As hinted at above, periodontitis can also be a product of another disease (respiratory disease is common), diabetes, heart ailments, and so on.
Finally, a particularly bad form of the disease is necrotizing periodontal disease. This is where the periodontal ligaments, gum tissues and bone die. This type of periodontal disease is most common in patients who have suppressed immune systems.
The treatment for periodontal disease depends on how severe it is. As mentioned above, gingivitis can be tamed with good oral hygiene habits (flossing regularly, brushing for at least one minute each time, regular dental checkups with tooth cleaning and plaque and tartar buildup removed from your teeth).
Scaling and root planning are other non-surgical treatments. Treatments that require surgery include flap surgery/pocket reduction surgery, bone grafts, soft tissue grafts, guided tissue regeneration, and bone surgery.
Most gum disease can be treated non-surgically; the surgical procedures listed above are almost always necessary when the tissue around the teeth is unhealthy and can’t be repaired otherwise.
As serious as periodontal disease is, it’s relatively easy to prevent: take care of your teeth and gums!
For more information about Dr. Brent Cornelius please visit www.brentcornelius.com