What you don't see can hurt you. Next to tooth decay, gum disease is the next most common dental problem we see. In fact about 70% of the adult population has some form of gum disease. Gum disease consists mainly of 2 forms: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is a reversible form of the disease and consists of red, swollen and bleeding gum tissue. Gingivitis is caused by bacteria that collect on the teeth called plaque. They form a sticky white film that can be removed by brushing and flossing. By removing the plaque the gum tissue will heal. Healthy gums do not bleed. If the plaque is not removed, in about 24 hours it turns hard. This is now called tartar or calculus. Calculus cannot be removed by brushing and flossing. It must be removed at the dental office.
Calculus can also form below the gumline where you cannot see it. It provides a source of irritation and bacteria under the gum tissue. The tissue becomes more red,swollen and starts to pull away from the tooth. The immune system tries to fight this process of infection. If this continues over time the bone, that supports your teeth is dissolved away. Once the bone is gone, we cannot put it back. This is now called periodontal disease and it is irreversible. If this is taking place, our goal is to stop the bone loss and stabilize the gum disease.
This bone loss creates deeper areas below the gumline that you cannot effectively clean. In order to keep the disease under control, we need to access these areas frequently in the office to clean them for you. Sometimes this involves coming every 3 months or seeing a gum specialist who may recommend surgery. There is no cure for periodontal disease.
Much research has focused lately on gum disease and how it affects the rest of the body. It has been linked to low birth weight infants, diabetes, stroke and heart disease. The same bacteria from the gums have been found in the arteries of the heart. We may learn more about this over the next few years.
The best way to help prevent gum disease is regular dental care at home and here in the office. Our goal is the same as yours, to keep your smile healthy and disease free.
Dr. Kelly Rodgers and her team of dedicated dental professionals are always excited to meet new clients and to catch up with old ones. Contact the Carlisle Dentistry team today and start experiencing what modern dentistry has to offer!