A Dentist’s Guide
By Dr Ayesha Iqbal
Maintaining good oral health is essential to one’s overall health. In general, the goals of proper oral hygiene are to remove or prevent plaque and tartar formation and buildup, prevent dental caries and periodontal disease, and decrease the incidence of halitosis. Results from various clinical studies have concluded that poor oral hygiene is linked directly to an increased incidence of dental caries, periodontal disease, halitosis, oral pain, and discomfort for denture wearers. Some clinical studies suggest that gum disease may also increase an individual’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease or stroke and may contribute to other health issues. As a dentist majority of the patients are seen either with halitosis, bleeding gums or with tenderness in gums.
WHAT IS PERIODONTAL DISEASE?
Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, is caused by bacteria in plaque. If not consistently removed, these bacteria builds up, infecting your teeth, gums, and eventually the bone that supports your teeth – a common cause of tooth loss. Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is the mildest form of periodontal disease. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to a more serious and irreversible form of gum disease called periodontitis This disease has three stages of progression: gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis; the longer the disease has to advance, the more damage it causes. With advancements in detection and treatment, we can discover periodontal disease early and begin treatment before complicated issues arise.
Signs and Symptoms
While signs and symptoms of periodontal disease vary from person to person, the following are common among many affected patients:
- Bleeding gums during and after brushing teeth
- Tender, red, swollen gums
- Mouth sores
- Persistent halitosis
- Pain when chewing
- Loose or shifting teeth
- Receding gums
- Formation of deep pockets between teeth and gums
- Changes in the way dentures fit
Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in dental plaque. A number of factors can cause or contribute to periodontal disease:
- Poor oral hygiene habits
- Genetic predisposition to dental issues
- Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause
- Misaligned or crowded teeth
- Use of certain medications, such as phenytoin, nifedipine, or cyclosporine
- Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, and HIV
- Poor nutrition
Tests and Diagnosis
Your dentist will examine the condition of your teeth and gums to determine whether you have periodontal disease. He or she will also look for plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth. If periodontal disease is found, your dentist may take x-rays to determine whether it has spread to the supporting bone structures of your teeth.
How Can I Prevent Gum Disease Before it Starts?
Simple, everyday steps can also be taken to avoid gum disease growth, including:
- Brushing and flossing consistently at least twice a day
- Using an antimicrobial mouth rinse daily to help control plaque
- Scheduling regular checkups
If you are experiencing the symptoms of gum disease, it’s essential that you begin treatment. Besides tooth loss, studies have linked untreated periodontal disease to the development of severe health issues such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes and pre-term low birth-weight babies.
To prevent periodontal disease, it is recommended establishing a good oral hygiene routine, which includes brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, and receiving professional dental care at least twice a year.
Gingivitis can be managed and even reversed with daily brushing, flossing, and routine dental cleanings. In addition to maintaining proper oral hygiene, you can use a mouth rinse that prevents plaque and tartar buildup. Electric toothbrushes are helpful because they are more effective at removing plaque and tartar than manual toothbrushes. If the gum disease has progressed to periodontitis, you should adhere to the treatment plan your dentist has recommended, maintain a daily oral care routine, and get regular professional dental care.
Treatment and Care
The goals in treating periodontal disease are to decrease inflammation and prevent further dental issues. Treatment is based on the severity and form of gum disease. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed, and periodontal surgery may be needed. Your doctor will determine the best treatment for your individual needs.
Although clinical data on the effectiveness of alternative therapies in treating periodontal disease are limited, some individuals elect to use alternative therapies. Your health care provider may recommend the following alternative therapies:
- Natural herbal supplements or teas, such as rosemary, ginger, turmeric, and cumin
- Vitamin/mineral supplements, such as zinc, folic acid, and vitamins C and D
- Proper oral hygiene
A host of nonprescription dental care products are marketed for the prevention of common oral health problems. These products are available in various formulations of dentifrices, including anti-plaque/anti-gingivitis, tartar control, and sensitivity toothpastes, whitening products, flossing products, topical fluoride products, and cosmetic and therapeutic antiseptic mouth rinses. Various products are also marketed to meet the dental needs of children; these products encourage and aid in improving brushing techniques. In addition, plaque removal devices, such as manual and electric toothbrushes, dental flossers, and oral irrigating devices, are commonly used and recommended for plaque removal.