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Posts for tag: gum disease

By Drake Tollefson DDS
February 21, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease  
TakeActionQuicklyAgainsttheAcuteFormofGingivitis

Periodontal (gum) diseases like gingivitis (inflammation of the gum tissues) can exist in a chronic form for some time, while gradually worsening. But given the right conditions, gingivitis could elevate quickly into an acute, painful condition known as Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis (ANUG). While it can be effectively treated, it’s important to diagnose ANUG early and begin treatment as soon as possible.

ANUG is also known as “trench mouth” as it was commonly recognized among soldiers in the trenches during World War I. Its name describes it as “necrotizing” and “ulcerative,” because when left untreated it kills (“necrotizes”) soft gum tissue, particularly the triangular tissue between teeth known as papillae, and causes severe and painful sores. A person with ANUG may also exhibit very bad breath and taste, with an odor peculiar to the disease. It’s believed that acute stress, poor nutrition and a lack of sleep can trigger the condition in individuals with pre-existing gingivitis.

As with other forms of gum disease, the first priority of treatment is to alleviate the symptoms. Besides initial cleaning (also known as scaling), we would also prescribe antibiotics (particularly Metronidazole, which is effective against the specific bacteria responsible for ANUG), an antibacterial mouthrinse like chlorhexidine, and a mild saline rinse. We would also control pain and inflammation with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen.

As the symptoms come under control, it’s then necessary to treat the underlying gingivitis by continuing the thorough cleaning of the affected surfaces, including the roots, of as much plaque and tartar as possible. Good oral hygiene with semi-annual professional cleanings must become regular habits to inhibit future reoccurrences of the disease. Quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet and managing stress are also advisable.

Without treatment, ANUG symptoms will persist; you could eventually lose the affected papillae, and experience other detrimental effects to other periodontal tissue and bone structures. If you suspect you may have gingivitis or this acute form, you should visit us as soon as possible for a full evaluation and treatment. The earlier we diagnose and treat gum disease, the better your long-term outlook.

If you would like more information on painful 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 “Painful Gums in Teens and Adults.”

By Drake Tollefson DDS
November 26, 2013
Category: Oral Health
LooseTeeth-ASignofTroubleThatRequiresQuickAction

Loose teeth are an exciting rite of passage in childhood; in adulthood, they're anything but. In fact, a permanent tooth that feels loose is a sign that you need to make an appointment with our office right away. The quicker we act, the better chance we will have of saving the tooth.

What causes loose teeth? In the absence of a traumatic dental injury, the culprit is usually periodontal (gum) disease. This is a bacterial infection of the gum and/or bone tissues that surround and support your teeth. The infection is caused by bacterial plaque that sits on your teeth in the absence of effective oral hygiene. Over time, periodontal disease will cause gum tissue and eventually bone to detach from the teeth. As more of this supporting tissue is lost, the teeth will gradually become loose and (if the disease remains untreated) eventually fall out.

Loose teeth can also be caused by a clenching or grinding habit that generates too much biting force. This force can stretch the periodontal ligaments that join the teeth to the supporting bone, making your teeth looser.

Whether the cause of your tooth looseness is biological (gum disease) or mechanical (too much force), treatments are available here at the dental office. The first step in treating gum disease is a thorough cleaning to remove plaque and harder deposits on the teeth (tartar or calculus); this includes the tooth-root surfaces beneath the gum line. You will also be instructed on effective oral hygiene techniques and products to use at home. This type of therapy will promote healing of the gums that will cause some tightening of the teeth. Additional treatments will probably be necessary to gain the maximum healing response to allow the teeth to be most stable. For example, we may also want to temporarily or permanently splint the loose tooth or teeth to other teeth so that biting forces do not loosen them further.

There are other mechanical approaches we can employ to prevent a loose tooth from receiving too much force. For example, we can reshape the tooth by removing tiny amounts of its surface enamel in order to change the way upper and lower teeth contact each other. We also may suggest a custom-made nightguard to protect your teeth if you have a nighttime grinding habit.

The most important thing to know about loose teeth is that it's crucial to intervene quickly. So if you are experiencing tooth looseness, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Loose Teeth” and “Treatment for Loose Teeth.”

By Drake Tollefson DDS
October 30, 2013
Category: Oral Health
GumDiseaseandYouATrue-FalseTest

Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that nearly half of Americans older than 30 had some signs of periodontal disease. That's more than 64 million people.

How much do you know about this potentially serious disease? Take our quiz and find out.

True or False: Gum Disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth

TRUE. Of the hundreds of types of bacteria that occur naturally in the mouth, only a small percentage are harmful. But when oral hygiene (brushing and flossing) is lacking, these can build up in a dental plaque, or biofilm. This often causes inflammation of the gums, the first step in the progression of gum disease.

True or False: Gum disease is more prevalent among younger people

FALSE. Gum disease is most often a chronic disease, meaning that it progresses over time. Statistics show that as we age, our chances of developing gum disease increase, as does the disease's severity. In fact, according to the study mentioned above, about 70% of adults 65 and over have mild, moderate or severe periodontitis, or gum disease.

True or False: Bleeding of the gums shows that you're brushing too hard

FALSE. You might be brushing too hard — but any bleeding of the gum tissue is abnormal. Gum sensitivity, redness and bleeding are typically the early warning signs of gum disease. Another is bad breath, which may be caused by the same harmful bacteria. If you notice these symptoms, it's time for a checkup.

True or False: Smokers are more likely to develop gum disease

TRUE. Not only are smokers more likely to develop gum disease, but in its later stages they typically show more rapid bone loss. Smoking also prevents the warning signs of gum disease - bleeding and swelling of the gum tissues - from becoming apparent. Other risk factors for developing the disease include diabetes and pregnancy (due to hormonal changes). Genetics is also thought to play a role in who gets the disease — so if you have a family history of gum disease, you should be extra vigilant.

True or False: The effects of gum disease are limited to the mouth

FALSE. Numerous studies suggest that there is a relationship between periodontal health and overall health. Severe gum disease, a chronic inflammatory disease, is thought to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke. It may also lead to complications in pregnancy, and problems of blood-sugar control in diabetics.

So if you have any risk factors for gum disease, or if you notice possible symptoms, don't ignore it: let us have a look. We can quickly evaluate your condition and recommend the appropriate treatments if necessary. With proper management, and your help in prevention, we can control gum disease.

If you have concerns about gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”

By Drake Tollefson DDS
August 22, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease   genetics  
GeneticsandyourGums

It is sometimes hard to believe all of the features and characteristics that we inherit from our parents. Whether you're tall, short, blue-eyed or blonde, you can usually attribute some of these features to your mother and father. Of course, the downside of genetics is that diseases and disorders are also linked to genes.

Well, you can add gum tissue to that list as well! Genetics actually determines whether you have what we call “thin” or “thick” gum tissue. How does this work? Well, the type of gum tissue you have relies heavily on the shape of your tooth, which indeed is genetically-coded. If you have a triangular tooth shape, you'll likely have thin gums. If you have a squarer tooth shape, you'll usually have thick gums.

So, what can you expect from each tissue type?

If you have a thin gum tissue type, you are more likely to have gum recession. Watch out for the following signs of gum recession:

  • Sensitivity to hot or cold, even without the presence of dental decay
  • If you have crowns on your teeth, you may see a dark gray line at the gum line from the metal casting beneath the crown
  • Small dark triangular spaces between teeth

On the other hand, if you have a thicker tissue type, your gums are more vulnerable to dental disease through a condition called “pocketing.” This happens when bacterial plaque causes your tissue to become inflamed, lose its attachment to the teeth and develop a pocket. Pocketing can result in bone loss, and, in worst-case scenarios, tooth loss.

It's important to note that while we use these terms to categorize different tissue types for treatment decisions, your tissue may also fall somewhere in between the two varieties.

So, how can you prevent gum disease? Daily oral hygiene is the best way to ensure proper care of your gums, no matter what type you have. Be sure to brush twice daily (use a soft toothbrush) and floss regularly at night. Floss gently until you hear a squeak, but watch out for your gum line. And of course, continue to visit us two times a year, so that we can assess whether you are in danger of developing gum disease.

If you would like more information about genetics and gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Genetics and Gum Tissue Types.”

By Drake Tollefson DDS
August 14, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease  
PreventionistheKeyintheFightAgainstPeriodontalDisease

Billions of bacteria live in each of our mouths, sharing a common environment with teeth and soft tissues. Most of the time, they coexist in symbiotic balance. But sometimes that balance becomes disrupted, leading to a destructive condition known as periodontal disease.

From the Latin peri (“around”) and the Greek odont (“tooth”), periodontal refers to the tissues that are around the teeth. When they become diseased, it's a serious matter; and not just because of potential tooth loss — there is evidence that periodontal disease has links to cardiovascular disease and, for pregnant women, low birth weights in pre-term babies.

There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing periodontal disease, like smoking, poor nutrition, and your systemic health. The biggest factor, however, is increased bacterial plaque due to poor oral hygiene practices.

Periodontal disease is progressive. As unhealthy bacteria levels increase, the bacteria eventually cause bone loss, the gums separate from the teeth and create what is referred to as periodontal pockets. As the pockets deepen around the teeth, plaque and tartar become extremely difficult to remove, even if you resume a proper hygiene routine. At this stage, treating the disease will require a different approach. And if left untreated, the teeth will most likely continue to lose bone and eventually be lost.

Through a dental exam, we can determine the presence and extent of the disease and recommend a treatment strategy. Besides lifestyle changes and better hygiene habits, this strategy might also include treatment with antibiotics, a thorough mechanical cleaning to remove tartar and plaque, surgical techniques to remove infected tissue, or occlusal bite therapy.

Above all, prevention is the key. Through proper dental hygiene and regular dental exams and cleanings, stopping periodontal disease from beginning in the first place is your best defense.

If you would like more information on the treatment of periodontal disease, 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 “Understanding Gum Disease.”