Periodontal disease, more commonly referred to as gum disease, is the most common dental detriment found in patients today. It is known as a "silent" disease because it is relatively painless and can go unnoticed by the untrained eye. Millions of people are walking around with gum disease today, unaware of the irreversible damage that is occurring inside of their mouths.
Not only is gum disease a frequent cause for tooth loss in adults, but it can also prompt other health issues such as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
Twice-yearly dental exams and cleanings with Myrtle Beach dentist Dr. Latham and good oral hygiene practices at home will help reduce your risk for gum disease.
- What is Gum Disease?
- Mouth-Body Connection
What is Gum Disease?
If left unattended, the bacteria found in plaque can cause inflammation of the gums. If this inflammation is then left untreated, it can result in gum disease. Gum disease is characterized by your gum and bone receding from the areas around the teeth, forming "pockets." Subsequently, food and other debris can collect in these pockets, leading to the development of bacterial infections. At this point, two things can happen: the gums continue to loosen, releasing their hold on your teeth, and allowing them to potentially fall out. Also, the bacteria can find its way to other portions of your body via the bloodstream, introudcing further infection and disease to places like the lungs, heart, and more.
Gum disease can be diagnosed through an exam completed by Dr. Latham. He will use a small probe to measure the depth of the pockets in your gums, or space between the gums and the teeth. The deeper the pocket, the more of a chance for gum disease. Pockets deeper than 3 millimeters and usually a cause for concern.
Dr. Latham will perform a visual assessment, looking for inflammation, bleeding, and the texture and color of your gums will be reviewed, along with tooth mobility. It’s essential to diagnose gum disease early before irreversible damage is done
Gum disease treatment will depend upon how severe it is deemed to be. If caught in the early stages, one or two cleaning appointments could clear up the inflammation issue and have your gums healthy again.
If the inflammation has developed into gum disease, a deeper cleaning- called "scaling and root planing" - may be needed. This process calls for a numving of the gums to remove plaque, tartar, and bacteria below the gum line. Dr. Latham may also suggest some changes to your at-home regimen, including the usage of an electric toothbrush or medicated mouth wash , to help promote healing and reduce possibility of infection returning.
After the scaling and root planing, if your pockets do not heal, periodontal surgery may be required.
Twice-daily tooth brushing and flossing is required to lower your chances of gum diseases. It can only take 24 hours for plaque to turn into tartar, and for that tartar to then start doing serious damage to your teeth and gums.
Alongside the aforementioned at-home care regimen, regular exams and cleanings with your Myrtle Beach dentist, Dr. Latham, are highly recommended. Patients with a history of gum disease may need to be seen up to four times a year, compared to the standard two, in order to help prevent further spread of the disease. Prevention is the cheapest, easiest, and most reliable way to keep your gums and teeth healthy and strong.
Over time, more and more evidence is connecting poor oral health to other diseases and ailments, such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, respiratory disease, and much more. But where is the connection?
If not regularly cleaned, the mouth will be full of bacteria that can accumulate and start an infection in the form of gum disease. The mouth is a gateway to the rest of the body, and bacteria can thus migrate from the mouth to other parts of your system via the bloodstream. This can include, but is not limited to, infections and issues with the heart, brain, lungs, kidneys and more- even going so far as to result in death.
Also, existing ailments such as diabetes or autoimmune diseases lower your body’s ability to fight infections. With your immune system already strained it’s not as strong to fight the bacteria in your mouth.
Any person, young or old, is susceptible to gum disease if they do not follow an at-home regimen or seek professional dental cleanings and exams. It is important to understand the connection of the mouth to rest of the body, and if you keep one happy, you can help keep all of it- mouth, body, and soul- happy too. If you have any further questions about this connection to overall health, make sure to ask Dr. Latham at your next visit!