Healthy Gums; Healthy Smiles   



Healthy Gums; Healthy Smiles

 
Gum diseases should not be ignored, as they can lead to severe complications if not checked.
IN THE LAST DECADE, the scope of work of the Periodontist has expanded exponentially. More people are recognising the importance of healthy gums which are paramount to achieving a beautiful smile.

WHAT IS PERIODONTAL DISEASE?

Periodontitis is an irreversible form of gum disease which is characterised by bleeding gums, shifting or loose teeth, bad breath, gum swellings and receding gums. Sometimes, however, one can have receding gums due to incorrect or over brushing and not due to periodontitis.

Periodontitis occurs when the bacteria in plaque in the mouth overcomes the immune system of the patient. Hence, it does not mean that only people who do not visit the dentist and have loads of plaque and tartar, will get periodontitis. If the immune system of the person is susceptible to the type of bacteria in plaque, then he or she can get periodontitis even with minimal amounts of plaque and tartar. That is why periodontitis can also affect people as young as adolescents. Periodontal disease in children is rare except when the child is immune-deficient, for example, suffering from diabetes, leukaemia, HIV positive, etc.

There is a crevice in the gums surrounding each tooth and this crevice is up to 3mm in depth in a healthy patient.
The plaque in this crevice or POCKET, if left to stagnate. Will cause the bone supporting the tooth to diminish, hence leading to loose, shifting teeth and the other signs as mentioned.

PREVENTION

It is not enough just to visit a dentist every 6 months to get a scaling and polishing to keep the disease at bay.

Pockets have to be cleaned daily with a soft toothbrush and floss or other dental care aids to prevent plaque from accumulating beneath the gums. The correct method should be taught by a dentist. Small amounts of tartar that do accumulate have to be carefully removed at each scaling session. Hence, rarely is scaling totally pain less as the dentist has to go beneath the gums to scale. Pain is lessened though through the use of fine scaling tips and with magnifying aids such as loupes for careful access. The dentist has to also periodically do a pocket chart which is a measurement of those crevices to ensure healthy readings.
X rays are taken in certain cases to ascertain the problem areas.

TREATMENT OPTIONS

The most basic gum treatment involves removing the tartar beneath the gums with the use of specialised scalers or in some clinics, lasers. Visibility and skill of the dentist is key to thorough removal.
Periodontists are specially trained to do this. Following this basic gum treatment, the patient is reviewed in six to eight weeks to assess outcome. If cessation of the disease is not achieved, more advanced treatment will be suggested depending on the case.
Advanced treatment include gum and bone grafting surgeries.

Periodontists can do gum grafting procedures to improve receding gums in certain cases, implant surgeries to replace teeth, certain bone addition surgeries as well as customised gum and teeth maintenance programmes for patients who have chronic diseases such as diabetes and osteoporosis.
They can also take care of patients who are cannot allow the loss of a tooth due to the medications or treatments they are on. These are patients who have heart problems and are on anticoagulants, patients on Fosamax or other bisphosphonates for osteoporosis or certain cancers and those after radiation treatment to the head and neck region.

Can gum disease recur? The answer is yes.
The only way to ensure stability is to get regular pocket checks and beneath-the-gums scaling for life.

6 simple dental health care tips

1. Brush your teeth twice a day.
2. Don't over-brush!
3. Brush with gentle strokes, using a soft toothbrush.
4. Don't reduce brushing time.
5. Use the right toothbrush and toothpaste.
6. Change your toothbrush regularly.

What to look for in a toothbrush
Finding a toothbrush isn't rocket science. Even so, it's important. The wrong toothbrush can damage your gums and lead to tooth decay. Lucky for you, finding the right one is easy.

"The best toothbrush for you is one that you will use” says Kimberly Grace, D.D.S., consumer adviser for the American Dental Association (ADA). "Using your toothbrush every day will take away harmful plaque from your teeth. The ADA recommends brushing your teeth two times a day and flossing between teeth once a day."

Grace suggests you buy a toothbrush marked "soft." "This means the bristles are soft and pliable and can reach in between the teeth without hurting” she explains. Hard bristles hurt when brushing and wear away the gums, as well as the tooth enamel at the gum line.
Buy a brush that's the right size for your hand so you can hold it easily, she advises. Brush size is especially important for small children and older adults.

An electric toothbrush offers the same benefits as a manual brush-if you use it properly.
"Electric brushes are easier for some patients, especially those who brush quickly and forget to brush the hard-to-reach areas in the back. You can do the same thing manually with a toothbrush that you will do with an electric brush. You'll just spend a little more time with the manual brush," Grace says.

When should you get a new brush? Every 3 to 4 months, the ADA says. If you notice the bristles are frayed or bent, that's a sign you need a new brush. When storing your brush, keep it clean, dry and upright. "It is less likely bacteria will stay on your brush that way” Grace says.

Plaque is continuously forming on your teeth, Grace adds. "Plaque can't be rinsed or swished away. It has to be brushed off. 

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Happy reading,
Evelyn



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