Next time you visit your dentist office you need to be aware that if you have plaque that is overwhelming the gum line and teeth, one of three things will happen to you or all three depending on the severity of the accumulation.
Which one are you?
Do your gums bleed when you floss or brush?
Gingivitis: simply stated is “inflammation of the gums”. Bleeding and swelling of the gum tissue is present. You may have localized areas of plaque or it could be generalized all over. You may have a light plaque accumulation in between your teeth because you are a good brusher, but if you don’t floss or use something else in between your teeth then you most likely have gingivitis! I know you’re thinking
“I don’t floss and no one has ever told me I have gingivitis it cannot be true” Not all dental professionals will use that word. They may sigh, roll their eyes, smile in their nicest sweetest smile they know how to do for you , hand you a mirror and then tell you that you need to floss or clean the in between areas of your teeth. They may also tell you your gums bleed. The good news is (there
is a ray of sunshine here) Gingivitis is completely reversible! You can have gingivitis one day, get your teeth cleaned (a prophy), follow up with floss, or any of these: a waterpik, rubber tip or proxabrushes , dental flossers, tooth piks (stimudents) plastic piks etc.. and voila, it’s gone within a few days! Just like that! But read on to find out where you fit in these categories.
Periodontal Disease: Gingivitis if left untreated leads to a much more devastating condition. If you have been to see your dental hygienist lately and she is measuring and calling out numbers to be recorded on your chart she is checking you for the dreaded Gum Disease! If you hear a number over 4mm or greater you are on the road to bone loss of the teeth. Yes , 4mm is a wake up call for you to clean under your gums! Your gums will need to have therapy with your Dental Hygienist or Periodontist if a 5mm or deeper pocket is present (pockets may go as deeply as 12 or more mm). In layman’s terms this is the story. Plaque is a biofilm made of bacteria. It is estimated that 25,000 species of bacteria live in the oral cavity with close to 1,000 in the biofilm. The harmful bacteria ( the bad germs) need a place to live. They choose the dark warm
moist areas around and under your gums to perpetuate their species! They are reproducing themselves right there in your mouth! If you don’t brush and clean areas in between your teeth and around the gums more plaque attracts to the colony it has formed. At first the biofilm is soft enough to remove with a fingernail. However, it begins to harden within 48 hours and in about 10
days it becomes calculus. Calculus (tartar) can sit under and along the gum line like a persistent splinter causing redness, swelling and pocketing. It needs to be taken off by a professional to prevent more loss of bone and tissue.
Your dental professional will most likely suggest treatment and more frequent dental visits to clean more often, maybe every 3 or 4 months until the condition is controlled. There is no known cure for periodontal disease which means you have to clean the bacteria off before it affects you again and manage symptoms for it not to recur. This may mean more frequent visits for as long as determined by the hygienist and Doctor.
If you are deficient with brushing and flossing and you know it, please ask for someone clinical in the office to show you how to do it! Don’t ever, ever be embarrassed. We love that kind of honesty! If you are not aware that you are amiss (many are not), we will let you know in a nice tactful way. We can help you! That is why we are here. More than anything at that moment in time
when you are in the dental seat with your hygienist we want to help you help yourself! We have the most fun educating you on everything from brushing technique, electric toothbrushes and all things that are dentally acceptable to fit in between those pearly whites! That is truly the highlight of our day! (we enjoy listening about your vacations and latest greatest restaurants you recommend too)! We want to get to know you. We love to show anyone who will listen about their oral health and how to clean it properly. It may take a few visits for you to get the concept and we may try a few different approaches, but together we will get you where you need to go which is Healthy.
Some patients tell me they never get bleeding at home, but when they are in the office getting a prophy, bleeding is present and moderate. This usually means that the patient is inadvertently missing the gum line. They will need further instruction to modify their methods of brushing and cleaning to be more effective.
Your mouth is the portal to the rest of your body. Healthy gums that don’t bleed when touched, brushed, flossed means that your blood stream is a whole lot cleaner! Yes, bacteria left under the gums too long causing disease get on the “super highway” (Your bloodstream) and activate an influx of inflammatory proteins called “cytokines” which reek havoc in your arterial walls. For ungodly reasons, I won’t go into all the details, arterial plaque penetrates the artery walls faster with these cytokines present. This is a dangerous game! Stroke and heart attack could be waiting for you around the corner. Frequent respiratory infections are common because you keep inhaling the dangerous bacteria directly into the
lungs. Don’t go there, people around you love you! Someone out there wants you to be there for them!
Do you have cavities?
Dental Decay (cavities) : First off this too is a disease! Now that you know what plaque does to your gums, wait until you see what it does to your teeth!
Plaque is so dangerous to our teeth because of the bacterial acids. Bacteria
reproduce and live on your teeth and gums digesting all foods you place in your
mouth. Then they excrete dangerous acids that stay on your teeth weakening the enamel to a softer material which eventually causes holes to form in your teeth (what bacteria eat has to come out. It is the excrement from bacteria that is
so awful)! Patients who are taking certain medications can get something called dry mouth (xerostomia). The plaque is so sticky with none of the salivary cleansers naturally present in the saliva to wash it away. A perfect bed for more bacteria! Fluoride supplements and xylitol products can help lessen your predisposition to decay. Many energy drinks and soft drinks having high sugar levels increase your chances for more acids and decay. Cavities can be detected clinically in the chair and with radiographs. The patient may have no symptoms.
Wow! This can become overwhelming if you have a mouthful of cavities! Not to mention your time ( a rare commodity these days). Please be aware that dental insurance, if you have it, is just a supplement, a gift from your employer to help you pay for some of it. It rarely covers all expenses. If you don’t have cavities, you don’t have gum problems and get your teeth and tissues examined every 6 months and receive necessary radiographs for the detection of bone loss, decay and root anomalies you are most likely covered. If your dental needs are
greater this is just a supplemental financial help. That’s what it is. The business team is there to help you with your financing. Ask them as many questions as you like. If you take care of your very precious mouth then you can avoid many of these problems with the disciplined skill of brushing 2-3 x daily and using something in between your teeth once daily! That is it!
That is my line of work. Please cherish and take care of your one set of adult teeth that you want to keep for the rest of your life! Your body will thank you.
Denise Walstra RDH Coastal CT Dentistry in Waterford