The Causes And Treatments Of Gum DiseaseThe Causes And Treatments Of Gum Disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, can range from gingivitis, which is the first stage where the gums are inflamed, to advanced periodontitis where severe bone loss has occurred. Until it is in the extreme stages where infection exists and severe damage is being done, periodontal disease does not have any symptoms.

Studies show that over "80 percent of American adults currently have some form of the disease" and while not everyone gets gum disease, there are certain risk factors that can elevate the probability:

•Poor Oral Hygiene - Plaque is constantly being created in the mouth and when plaque is not removed by brushing and flossing, it develops into tartar (also known as calculus), which can only be removed by a dental professional using special tools.

•Smoking - A very significant risk factor, smoking is the "single major preventable risk factor for periodontal disease." The risk of gum disease actually increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day and pipes and cigars have the same risk potential.

•Diet High On Sugar Intake - Bacteria that are constantly available in the mouth, when combined with sugar, create an acid that attacks the enamel of the teeth and causes gum disease.

•Hormonal Changes in Women - Female hormones make the gums more susceptible to periodontal disease...especially with pregnancy and during and after menopause.

•Genetics - According to the American Academy of Periodontology, studies have indicated that "approximately 30 percent of the population may be genetically predisposed to periodontal disease."

•Diabetes - Patients with diabetes have susceptibility for developing infections... and this includes gum infections.

•Substance Abuse - Gums and teeth can be damaged by the long-term abuse of either alcohol or illegal drugs such as amphetamines.

•Stress - When the body is under stress, it has a more difficult time of fighting infections, and psychological stress creates the release of inflammatory hormones which can trigger or escalate gum disease.

•Medications - From antidepressants to some types of heart medication...when a drug lessens the flow of saliva in the mouth, the gums are more prone to disease because saliva protects the teeth and gums.

But even with risk factors, periodontal disease does not have to cause havoc. By practicing good daily oral hygiene habits and making regular visits to the dentist for checkups and professional cleanings, gum disease can be prevented or treated. First of all, periodontal disease can typically be prevented by doing the following:

•Eating a well-balanced diet that is low in sugar

•Brushing at least twice a day or after every meal

•Flossing at least once a day (preferably before bedtime)

•Refraining from using tobacco products

•Visiting the dentist on a routine basis

In those cases where a patient does get periodontal disease, after a thorough periodontal examination, a dentist will be able to determine which of the treatment options is the best choice for the patient. These are the methods that are most often used to correct gum disease:

•Scaling and Root Planing - This is a deep cleaning method where a dental professional uses special tools to clean tartar and bacteria from above and below the gum line and to clean and smooth out tooth root surfaces.

•Laser Treatments - These treatments are sometimes used to close up any pockets and remove infected tissue.

•Pocket Reduction Surgery - When inflamed areas or 'pockets' are present, the dentist may perform a gentle surgery where a 'flap' on the gums is lifted back so that diseased tissue can be removed and the bones and gums can be repositioned if necessary to support the tooth.

•Grafting - If either bone or tissue have been lost because of the disease, the dentist may suggest grafting which can either replace lost bone or tissue or encourage new growth of either or both.

Periodontal disease is preventable. But in those cases where it does take hold, dental technology provides a myriad of treatments to bring the teeth, gums and jawbone back to full health.
by Karl A. Smith DDS MS
References and Bibliography
Dr. Karl Smith has been in dental practice for over twenty-seven years. His specialties are periodontics, dental anesthesia and implants. People come from near and far to experience the comfort and professionalism of his office and patient-oriented staff.
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