Have you been thinking about improving your smile? Not sure if your family dentist can…
“My gums always bleed when I floss, it’s normal”. Wrong! Half of North Americans over 30 experience gum bleeding while brushing and flossing but that statistic doesn’t mean it should be happening. Bleeding gums are actually a sign of periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is an umbrella term for an infection of the structures around the teeth, including gums, ligaments, and bones. Most people are familiar with the term gingivitis. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of periodontal disease, and if left untreated complications can arise.
Since gingivitis and the latter forms of periodontal disease are so common, researchers have been searching for their cause. It turns out that gum disease can be chalked up to bacterial infection. Certain types of bacteria are especially prone to take up residence and wreak havoc in the structures of the mouth.
There is great scientific interest in the realm of periodontal disease, as the health of one’s gums has been shown to be linked to their overall health. Researchers are studying connections between:
- Gum disease and heart disease: gum disease may increase the risk for clogged arteries and may worsen existing heart disease.
- Stroke: gum disease may increase the risk of stroke, which is the blockage of a blood vessel to the brain.
- Diabetes: gum disease has been linked to difficulty controlling blood sugar.
- Respiratory disease: bacteria from the gums may travel to the lungs, aggravating respiratory conditions.
There are so many reasons why it’s important to take care of your gums! No longer can you shrug off bleeding in the dentist’s chair while your gums are getting poked. Now you’re aware of the greater health consequences. So, what’s the first step in treating periodontal disease?
The first step is to book an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist will be able to give you an objective update on how your mouth is doing and inform you of the extent of any gum disease. Keeping a regular schedule with your dentist holds you accountable for following a solid dental hygiene regimen at home, and ensures any dental health issues are noticed and addressed quickly.
Gingivitis isn’t too great a cause for concern — it can be easily treated with regular brushing and flossing. It’s recommended you brush and floss twice a day, once when waking and once before going to bed. Flossing is the real superstar that keeps inflamed and infected gums at bay, but many people neglect this step. If you find flossing with string too awkward, you can buy easy-to-use flossing sticks from any drug store.
If gingivitis progresses to periodontal disease, then the treatment gets more complicated and invasive. As dental plaque builds up along your teeth, toxins infect the surrounding structures. This can lead to infection of ligaments or loosening of teeth. If periodontal disease progresses far enough, surgical intervention is required.
Here are some treatments your dentist may recommend to treat periodontal disease:
- Scaling and root deplaning. This is a non-surgical method of addressing periodontal disease, where the dentist scrapes the plaque away from your teeth, then smooths out the surface to prevent bacteria from re-infecting the site. It may take several visits to the dentist to do a complete and thorough job. If you find the procedure uncomfortable, a local anesthetic may be used to numb your mouth.
- Pocket reduction procedure. Sometimes the infection is so bad that the gum comes away from the tooth it surrounds. In such cases, a pocket reduction can help. After scaling and deplaning your teeth, your dentist pulls back the gum to clean out harmful bacteria. This allows the gum to reattach to the tooth, with all structures clean and healthy.
- Gum grafts. Periodontal disease can cause the gums to recede or move away from the tooth, exposing tooth roots. This can cause severe pain when eating, drinking, or any other activity where the teeth may touch. In a gum graft, tissue is taken from your palate (or another source) and is used to cover the exposed root.
The number one treatment for periodontal disease is prevention. Gingivitis and periodontal disease are not certainties that come with aging, despite their normalcy. Disciplined, daily maintenance of the teeth and gums is a far better alternative to suffering in pain. Brush, floss and use mouthwash twice a day, and be sure to schedule regular dentist appointments. This combination is killer to bacteria who want to make their home in your mouth and will prevent you from needing drastic treatment down the road.
So, next time you see blood after brushing or flossing, don’t shrug it off! Take it as a cue to step up your dental hygiene game, and book an appointment with your dentist to get the full story.
For the top dentists in Rosedale, downtown Toronto and the GTA, contact Dawson Dental at 1-877-542-2043. You can also contact us here. We’re a full-service dental practice offering a broad spectrum of care. We have locations across Ontario to serve you best.