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 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,
a crevice in the gums surrounding each tooth and
this crevice is up to 3mm in depth in a healthy
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.
It is not
enough just to visit a dentist every 6 months to get
a scaling and polishing to keep the disease at bay.
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
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
Advanced treatment include gum and bone grafting
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
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.
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
your teeth twice a day.
2. Don't over-brush!
3. Brush with gentle strokes, using a soft
4. Don't reduce brushing time.
5. Use the right toothbrush and toothpaste.
6. Change your toothbrush regularly.
What to look for in a
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
An electric toothbrush offers
the same benefits as a manual brush-if you use it
"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,"
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
Plaque is continuously forming
on your teeth, Grace adds. "Plaque can't be rinsed
or swished away. It has to be brushed off.