Gum Disease


Like most Rochester MN dentists, we spend much of our time educating our patients on preventative care. The most common issue we teach about is gum disease.

Did you know that close to 70% of adults have some form of gum disease and most people don’t even know they have it. Consequences of gum disease are serious, but it can be prevented and even reversed.

Early stage gum disease is called gingivitis and is fairly common. The symptoms of the first stage is usually include swelling, tenderness, and bleeding of the gums. Only the gums are involved at this stage, but left unchecked the tissues surrounding them begin break down.

The more serious classification of gum diseases called periodontitis. This involves the attachment fibers and the supporting bone that holds the teeth in the mouth in addition to the soft gum tissue. Studies have linked it to heart disease, stroke and complications of pregnancy as well as tooth and bone loss.

According to a recent study, almost 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. There are also some harmful habits that facilitate the accumulation of tartar. Those include smoking, excessive drinking of hard alcohol, and using some per-oral drugs etc. Smokers are at least twice as likely to get some kind of gum disease. Teenagers, pregnant women and women in menopause are at a higher risk as well. There are many other conditions that can contribute to this illness, such as high exposure to metals, radiation, poorly fitted fillings.

So even when your dental health habits are good, seeing your dentist is the only way to remove the tartar buildup.

Bacteria in your mouth feed on left over food particles. The bacteria leave behind an acid by-product which can destroys tooth enamel and contributes to cavities. The left over food and bacteria make a soft and sticky substance called plaque. Plaque can be removed by daily brushing and flossing.

In the case of poor brushing, the left over food and bacteria can harden and become tartar. This can no longer be removed by brushing and a trip to the dental hygenist is the only way to take care of it.

If not removed, the plaque leads to gum disease and cavities. Even very small amounts of tartar can be a real problem to your gums. The tartar, or calculus, that forms below the gum line causes pockets to form. These pockets can continue to grow and infection can spread into surrounding tissues until they destabalize the structure that holds your tooth in place.

Since you can’t see the calculus below the gum line, visiting your dentist is very important even when you think your teeth look great. Treatment such
as scaling and root planing involve the removal of the irritants and bacterial deposits that have built up above and below the gum line in the periodontal pockets. Scaling and root planing is done in two to four visits, most of the time.

Dental professionals measure periodontal disease using a tool called a periodontal probe. Eventual tooth loss is likely over the years in patients with disease who have pockets 5 mm or deeper around their
teeth. If your dental visits do not include a regular measurement and recording process you should ask for it or switch dental providers.

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