Lansing's Dental Discussion

Posts for tag: gum disease

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
October 28, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease   bleeding gums  
FiveThingstoKnowAboutBleedingGums

Did you ever brush your teeth and find that your gums were bleeding slightly? This unwelcome discovery is more common than you might think — and it might have something to tell you about your oral health. Here are five things you should know about bleeding gums.

  • As much as 90% of the population occasionally experiences bleeding gums. It happens most often while brushing — and it’s often a sign of trouble, indicating that your gums are inflamed and/or you aren’t brushing or flossing optimally.
  • Bleeding gums can be an early warning sign of gum disease. In its earliest stages, this malady is called gingivitis, and it’s quite common. About 10 to 15 percent of people with gingivitis go on to develop a more serious form of gum disease, called periodontitis. If left untreated, it can lead to gum recession, bone loss, and eventually tooth loss.
  • A professional exam is the best way to tell if you have gum disease. Your dentist or hygienist may use a small hand-held instrument called a periodontal probe to check the spaces between your teeth and gums. When gum tissue becomes detached from the teeth, and when it bleeds while being probed, gum disease is suspected.
  • Other symptoms can confirm the presence of gum disease. These include the presence of pus and the formation of deep “pockets” under the gums, where gum tissues have separated from teeth. The pockets may harbor harmful bacteria, and need to be treated before they cause more damage.
  • Several factors may influence the health of your gums. How effectively you brush and floss has a major impact on the health of your gums. But other factors are important too: For instance, women who are pregnant or taking birth control pills sometimes have bleeding gums due to higher hormone levels. Diabetics and people with compromised immune systems often tend to have worse problems with periodontal disease. Certain drugs, like aspirin and Coumadin, may cause increased bleeding; smoking, by contrast, can mask the presence of gum disease by restricting blood flow.

It’s never “normal” to have bleeding gums — so if you notice this problem, be sure to have an examination as soon as you can. If you have questions about bleeding gums or periodontal disease, contact us or schedule a consultation. You can read more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Assessing Risk For Gum Disease.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
September 23, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease  
RemovingBacterialPlaqueisCriticaltoHaltingAdvancingGumDisease

Treating periodontal (gum) disease is rather straightforward: remove the bacterial plaque that causes the disease. The techniques to accomplish this are varied, depending on how far the disease has advanced with an individual patient.

Plaque is a thin film of bacteria and food particles that build up on tooth surfaces due to inadequate oral hygiene. The bacteria that grow there can cause an infection that inflames and damages the gum and supporting bone tissues to the point they begin to lose their attachment to the teeth and form spaces known as periodontal pockets. In time, plaque becomes calcified due to the minerals in saliva, forming calculus or tartar. As the disease advances, it can ultimately cause tooth loss.

The most common technique for interrupting this progression of disease is known as scaling. Using hand instruments and/or an ultrasonic device, we remove as much plaque and calculus as we can detect on the outer surfaces of the teeth and gum tissues. Scaling, however, won’t address the plaque and calculus that has accumulated at the tooth root level, especially where pocket formation has taken place. This is where root planing may be necessary.

As the name implies, we use this procedure to literally “plane” plaque and calculus from the roots, a similar concept to removing thin layers of wood from a board. If necessary, we will first numb the affected area so that we can perform the procedure in a meticulous manner without causing discomfort. It’s essential we remove every bit of plaque and calculus that we can, especially where it has become lodged deep at the base of the pockets.

It’s common to start with ultrasonic therapy, using vibration to loosen the plaque while flushing the pockets with water. We then switch to delicate hand instruments known as curettes to physically remove any remaining plaque and calculus. An experienced touch helps us determine when the root surfaces have been properly cleaned; we can also “read the gum tissues,” as they will slightly change color as the offending plaque and calculus deposits are removed. As the gum tissues heal and become less inflamed, they return to a healthy pink color and the pocket depths generally become smaller as the inflammation leaves the area.

While a good portion of the treatment requires our professional skills, equipment and expertise, the bedrock for renewed periodontal health is effective daily oral hygiene on your part. Working together we can preserve the progress already made, while continuing to progress in restoring your oral health.

If you would like more information on root planing and other periodontal disease treatments, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Root Planing.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
April 17, 2014
Category: Oral Health
KeepYourGumsinthePink

Being “in the pink” is a good thing; it means you're healthy. Being “in the red” is not so good; it means your health is questionable (financially, anyway). Though they weren't coined for dentistry per se, these colorful expressions are helpful reminders when it comes to taking care of your gums: Pink is their natural, healthy color; that's what you want to see every time you look in the mirror. Red is generally a warning that something's amiss.

If your gums, or “gingiva,” appear slightly swollen and reddened at the margins and/or they bleed when lightly prodded by brushing or flossing, it's likely that you have gingivitis. This is an immune response to the buildup of bacterial plaque (biofilm) at your gum line. It is also an early red flag for periodontal disease (peri – around, odont – tooth), a degenerative process that affects not only the gums, but the periodontal ligament that attaches each tooth in its bony socket, and the underlying supporting bone.

Attentive home dental hygiene practices prevent most plaque buildup from occurring. Brushing correctly at the gum line is a good start. But even a deftly handled brush can't reach everywhere, so it's important to use dental floss or specially designed mini-brushes to get in between teeth and other hard-to-reach areas. Our office can instruct you on optimal home care techniques. We also encourage you to visit at regular intervals for professional cleanings so you are assured of addressing anything home care might miss.

In the absence of good oral hygiene, dental plaque can build and become increasingly difficult to remove as it calcifies, becoming tartar. It becomes a breeding ground for disease-causing microbes that normally wouldn't have the chance to gain a foothold. When caught early, gingivitis can be treated before any harm is done. Sometimes a thorough professional cleaning is sufficient. If the problem is ignored, however, the disease will most certainly progress to destruction of the surrounding, supporting tissues — the periodontal ligament and the underlying bone. If this happens, tooth loss could eventually result.

That said, there can be other causes for bleeding gums. These include:

  • Brushing too rigorously or using a toothbrush with bristles that are too firm
  • Side effect of a medication
  • In women, elevated hormone levels (e.g., birth control pills or pregnancy)
  • A systemic (bodily) disease

Whatever the reason, red is not normal when it comes to your gums. The sooner you discover the underlying reason(s) for inflammation or bleeding and take appropriate action, you and your smile will be back in the pink and you'll have no reason to be blue!

If you would like more information about preventing or treating bleeding gums, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Bleeding Gums.”

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
February 27, 2013
Category: Oral Health
DiabeticsWatchOutforaHiddenEnemyGumDisease

Periodontal (gum) disease, though it may be invisible to everyone but your dentist, can have a powerful effect on your entire body. Not only is it dangerous to your teeth and jaws, but it can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, cause preterm births in pregnant women, and affect blood sugar control in diabetics.

Diabetics are our subject for today. Symptoms of diabetes include abnormally high levels of glucose (a form of sugar) in the blood, leading to frequent urination, excessive thirst, blurred vision, unexplained weight loss, and loss of energy. The disease can also cause severe complications in various parts of the body.

Normally, glucose, your body's main energy source, is kept under control by a hormone called insulin, which is made by an organ called the pancreas. In type 1 diabetes, a person's pancreas does not produce enough insulin to deal with all the glucose in his or her blood. In type 2 diabetes — a condition related to increased age, physical inactivity, overweight, and heredity — the pancreas may produce enough insulin, but the body is not able to use it effectively. This condition is called insulin resistance.

People with type 1 diabetes need insulin to survive. Type 2 may be treated with exercise, diet, medications, and insulin supplements.

Serious complications of diabetes range from kidney failure, blindness, and nerve damage to infections that do not heal, gangrene and amputation of limbs.

Diabetes and periodontal disease seem to have reciprocal effects on each other. Diabetics are more likely to have periodontal disease than non-diabetics; and those with periodontal disease are likely to face worsening blood sugar control over time.

Periodontal disease (from “peri”, meaning around and “odont”, meaning tooth), is caused by dental plaque — a film of bacteria that settles on your teeth and gums every day. It's what you remove with daily brushing and flossing. Any bacteria that remain cause inflammation, which can lead in the worst cases to loss of bone and eventual loss of teeth.

The close relationship of diabetes and periodontal disease probably results from changes in the function of immune cells responsible for healing. Inflammation is a part of normal wound healing — but chronic or prolonged inflammation can destroy the tissues it was meant to heal. This may be a major factor in the destructive complications of diabetes.

Many of these complications begin in the blood vessels. Like the eyes and the kidneys, gum tissues are rich in blood vessels. Gum tissues are also under constant attack from bacteria. If you are a diabetic, effective plaque control, along with regular professional dental cleaning, can have positive effects not only on periodontal disease, but also on control of your blood glucose level.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about periodontal disease and its connections with diabetes. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Diabetes & Periodontal Disease.”



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