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How Gum Disease Works Pt. 1

Do you have gum disease? It’s much more common than you think! An estimated 65 million people in the US have some form of gum disease (you might have heard it also referred to as periodontal disease). As common as it is, most people aren’t aware that they may have gum disease because they aren’t familiar with the symptoms to watch for. In our Edgewood, KY dental practice, we  often treat cases that have gone unnoticed until the problem becomes very severe. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in the US.

For all the pain and misery gum disease causes, it is among the more preventable oral health issues you can have. To avoid gum disease, all you need to do is two simple, but very important, things:

  • Maintain a disciplined and thorough oral health routine: At least twice a day, you should be brushing, flossing, and rinsing with a mouthwash.
  • Make and keep regular dental appointments for examinations and cleanings, at least twice a year.

This is easier said than done for many patients. So we’re going to examine gum disease in-depth, for the benefit of our current and future patients. Through better understanding of how gum disease works, you’ll be able to identify the symptoms and gain a greater familiarity with the consequences of unchecked gum disease, as well as the treatments available in our practice. At the very least, knowing more about gum disease might be enough to change some habits and become more diligent about getting the care you need.

How Does Gum Disease Happen?

Gum disease is inflammation that is caused by a persistent infection in the gums, bone, and other tissues that are responsible for holding your teeth in place. Inflammation is your body’s most powerful weapon against infection. Inflammation happens internally and externally (where you can see it yourself). A good example of inflammation is a bug bite. At the site of the bite, you can observe swelling, redness, and irritation. That’s inflammation: it works by alerting your immune system to an infection; the area is flooded with antibodies, and the infecting bacteria, along with damaged tissues, is destroyed and removed. The symptoms go away when the threat is completely neutralized. Inflammation is very powerful, and it has evolved to stay on until the infection is totally eliminated, which is where it can actually become problematic. If an infection manages to persist, the inflammation will keep fighting it and fighting it until it starts to destroy healthy tissues. Inflammation that wears out its welcome is called chronic inflammation.

Your mouth is a virtual zoo of bacteria. You can’t ever get rid of it entirely; the only thing you can do is keep it in check with good oral hygiene and cleanings from your dentist or dental hygienist. The bacteria in your mouth is so abundant, individual bacteria will stick together and form a biofilm on the surface of your teeth. You might know this substance as plaque. Ever gone a day or two without brushing? You will start to feel a fuzzy, slimy substance on your teeth: that’s plaque, and if it gets out of control, gum disease is often the result.

If for instance you run out of the house without brushing your teeth, the clock starts ticking. It only takes 24 hours for the plaque that you left on your teeth to change into another substance called dental calculus (though it is sometimes called tartar). Where plaque is soft and can be removed with brushing, flossing, and rinsing, dental calculus is harder than the math class it shares a name with! Dental calculus is hard as bone, and it is the ideal place for bacteria to hide, live, and thrive.

If you let your plaque and calculus go for long enough, it will grow on the surface of your teeth, until it goes below the gum line and on to the roots of your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth are for the most part a pretty well behaved collection of microscopic organisms, but if given the opportunity, it will wreak havoc on your oral health and can even be threat to your overall well-being.

Once the bacteria (as plaque and calculus) goes below the gums, your body turns on the inflammation response to defend itself. The inflammation becomes chronic, and your gums, other oral tissues, and even your jaw bone start to deteriorate. Given enough time, you’ll begin to notice that your teeth feel loose. That’s because they’re about to fall out (or your dentist might simply recommend an extraction if your teeth are beyond the point of saving)!

All of This Can Easily Be Avoided!

Gum disease is destructive, very common, and very easy to control. If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, we invite you to come in for a check-up, because there is a strong possibility that you might have gum disease. If its caught early, it can be treated, even reversed in some cases, but its up to you to make sure:

You must COMMIT to improved oral hygiene habits.

You must make and keep twice yearly dental appointments for cleanings and exams.

Don’t wait another day! Chances are you’ve already waited too long, so get gum disease before gum disease gets you!

Call Edgewood Dental today! Dial 859-474-7830 now!

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