September is national Oral Health Month and we want to emphasize the importance of your dental routine, particularly as two of the world’s most common health problems affect the mouth – cavities (dental caries) and gum disease.
Gum disease ranks second only to the common cold in terms of prevalence, with an estimated 90% of South Africans experiencing the problem at some point.
It really is in your best interest to practice good oral hygiene. Not only does it ensure a beautiful smile, but it is good for your health, as gum disease has been linked to coronary heart disease, adverse pregnancy outcomes and diabetes. And new research also shows that women with gum disease find it harder to conceive.
So in celebration of National Oral Health Month, Dr Corne Smith will post a new blog each week, giving tips on how to better your overall dental routine to ensure a happy, bright smile.
If you have been told you have periodontal (gum) disease, you’re not alone. Many adults currently have some form of the disease. Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the worst cases, teeth are lost.
Whether your gum disease is stopped, slowed, or gets worse depends a great deal on how well you care for your teeth and gums every day, from this point forward.
WHAT CAUSES GUM DISEASE?
Our mouths are full of bacteria. These bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colourless “plaque” on teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form “tartar” that brushing doesn’t clean. Only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar.
The longer plaque and tartar are on teeth, the more harmful they become. The bacteria cause inflammation of the gums called “gingivitis.” With gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist. This form of gum disease does not include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place.
Smoking: Need another reason to quit smoking? Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of gum disease. Additionally, smoking can lower the chances for successful treatment.
Hormonal changes in girls/women: These changes can make gums more sensitive and make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
Diabetes: People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing infections, including gum disease.
Other illnesses: Diseases like cancer or AIDS and their treatments can also negatively affect the health of gums.
Medications: There are hundreds of prescription and over the counter medications that can reduce the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on the mouth. Without enough saliva, the mouth is vulnerable to infections such as gum disease. And some medicines can cause abnormal overgrowth of the gum tissue; this can make it difficult to keep teeth and gums clean.
Genetic susceptibility: Some people are more prone to severe gum disease than others.
WHO GETS GUM DISEASE?
People usually don’t show signs of gum disease until they are in their 30s or 40s. Men are more likely to have gum disease than women. Although teenagers rarely develop periodontitis, they can develop gingivitis, the milder form of gum disease. Most commonly, gum disease develops when plaque is allowed to build up along and under the gum line.
HOW IS GUM DISEASE TREATED?
The main goal of treatment is to control the infection. The number and types of treatment will vary, depending on the extent of the gum disease. Any type of treatment requires that the patient keep up good daily care at home. The doctor may also suggest changing certain behaviours, such as quitting smoking, as a way to improve treatment outcome. More serious cases may also be treated with medication, prescribed by your dentist, or even oral surgery. Your dentist will also take an x-ray to see whether there is any bone loss, or refer you to a periodontist.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE GUM DISEASE?
Symptoms of gum disease include:
Bad breath that won’t go away
Red or swollen gums
Tender or bleeding gums
Receding gums or longer appearing teeth
Any of these symptoms may be a sign of a serious problem, which should be checked by a dentist.
Corne Smith Cape Town, Newlands Dentistry, offers a wide range of services to improve oral health for the whole family, contact us today to get your dental routine sparkling again.