Preventive dentistry is the branch of dentistry concerned with eliminating the causes of dental disease. Most commonly, dental disease in the mouth can be categorised into two main areas. Dental caries (decay) and periodontal (gum) disease. These conditions can be easily prevented with proper advice, hygiene and regular dental maintenance visits.
Maintaining Gum Health
Gum and periodontal disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss for Australian adults. By maintaining good gum health, you can lower your chances of tooth loss, as well as avoiding bleeding gums and bad breath. Avoid smoking, and be sure to drink plenty of water to increase your saliva production and improve your oral health.
Of course, another advantage of good gum health is purely aesthetic. By taking good care of your mouth before the occurrence of gum disease, you can be sure your smile will look great for years to come. So take the necessary precautions to keep your gums healthy – your smile will thank you.
Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissue that supports your teeth.
Gingivitis is an infection of the gum as a result of plaque (soft) or tartar (hard) buildup. Gingivitis is reversible and preventable with a thorough scale and polish from your hygienist/dentist, in addition to good at-home oral hygiene routines. Gingivitis does not affect the supporting structures of your teeth. If left untreated however, Gingivitis can lead to the more severe Periodontitis.
Periodontitis is the infection of the supporting structures (periodontal ligaments and alveolar bone) surrounding your teeth. Periodontitis is irreversible, but with deep scaling and good oral hygiene, Periodontitis can be arrested and further progression of this disease is prevented. If Periodontitis is too severe, a referral to a Periodontist is required for surgical therapy.
Who can suffer from gum disease?
Anyone! Recently studies have shown that specific bacterial organisms lead to the progression of Destructive Periodontitis; it can affect anyone. However, risk factors are increased if you smoke, have poor oral hygiene and dietary habits, are stressed, pregnant, have a family history of periodontitis, or have certain medical conditions such as HIV or diabetes.
Why is it a problem?
With our aging population and the advancement of dental techniques, more people are keeping their natural teeth for longer; but often the supporting structures are neglected. If Periodontitis is left untreated, it can progress rapidly, and loss of attachment and eventual loss of teeth can result.
What are the signs?
Gingivitis is often indicated by bleeding or sensitive gums, often when brushing or flossing, as well as bad breath. Periodontitis, which is often painless and hard to see, is typified by symptoms including bad breath (no matter how much you brush/chew gum), receding gums, abscesses(pus) in the gum pockets, mobile (loose) teeth, gaps between the teeth, and bleeding gums.
How is Periodontitis detected?
Your hygienist or dentist will use a small ruler to measure your gums. It is not painful; you should only feel light pressure. Readings between 0-3mm are considered healthy, while any readings greater than 5mm are considered a pocket. These ‘pockets’ are hard to clean, and so fill up with bacteria and tartar, which irritates the gum further causing deeper pocketing and so on. This is how pocket depths get larger when Periodontitis is left untreated. Radiographs including OPGs (big x-ray) and Bite Wings (small x-ray) are used diagnostically to show bone loss levels and subgingival (under the gum) tartar.
How is it treated?
Depending on the extent of the gum disease, your hygienist/dentist commences with the removal of subgingival tartar by root planing and scaling. These procedures remove tartar by mechanically scraping it from tooth surfaces. With deeper pockets a local anaesthetic is often required as each quadrant of the mouth is thoroughly cleaned. Often, you will need multiple ‘quadrant scaling’ appointments to completely and thoroughly scale the entire mouth. The most important person in the treatment of Periodontitis however, is you. It is one thing to have all your teeth and gums cleaned by a hygienist/dentist, but if you are not going to maintain good plaque control at home with good brushing and flossing, the gum disease could recur once more.
What happens after periodontal treatment?
It is critical to maintain healthy gums following periodontal treatment. Often your hygienist/dentist will keep you on a three month recall schedule until the Periodontitis is stable, at which point you can move to six month reviews.
How can gum disease be prevented?
Good oral hygiene is the key, including good brushing and flossing techniques, quitting smoking, reduction your intake of refined sugars, and maintenance of regular 6-12 monthly check up and clean appointments with your Dentist and Hygienist.
Please ask us at The Dental Touch should you have any questions, or need further clarification on the information provided here.
Diet and Tooth Decay
To help prevent tooth decay, begin by reducing how often you have sugary or starchy drinks and snacks. You might also like to replace sweet treats with foods such as cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables, or nuts, and chew sugar-free gum to stimulate production of saliva, your body’s natural mouth acid neutraliser. Rinsing with water after eating is also a great way to reduce exposure to mouth acid.
Examinations and Regular Visits
Regular checkups can help prevent tooth and gum problems and keep your smile in the best possible shape. We recommend six monthly checkups to have your teeth cleaned and checked, a schedule which makes for fast and easy dental appointments. Today’s techniques ensure your treatment will be as efficient and painless as possible. Of course, everyone experiences the same situation differently, but we’re confident you’ll notice that your visit was much easier than you expected.