Tag Archives: Gum Disease
How much do you know about the various types dental specialists? You see the dentist twice a year for a cleaning, a standard exam, and the occasional filling. That much we know. (Or should know.) It starts to get a little confusing when dental specialists enter the frame. For one, how many are there? And, what’s an endodontist even do?
I’ll answer both questions in this blog post. To start, you’d need to see a dental specialist if you developed an oral health issue that can’t be adequately resolved by your dentist. It could be the result of an accident, heredity, your overall health, or some other reason entirely.
It may help to think of your dentist as your primary care dental provider, just like your family doctor is your primary care medical provider. Your dentist will diagnose and treat most of your oral health care concerns. Should something come up that requires another degree of expertise, your dentist will refer you to a specialist but continue to monitor and manage your oral health care.
Dental specialists are basically dentists who receive additional, specialized training after dental school. Every practicing dentist has earned either a DDS or DMD degree. (There’s no difference between them. Some schools just award one, while others award the other.) Dental school is four years—on top of an undergraduate degree. The amount of post-graduate training to become a specialist varies from specialty to specialty.
Currently, there are 10 dental specialties recognized by the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards. Each has its own national certifying board that ensures its specialists adhere to certain standards, just as cardiologists, gastroenterologists, and every other kind of medical doctor does.
Here’s a closer look at the dental specialists you’re most likely to see over the course of your lifetime.
Orthodontists correct alignment issues, or malocclusions: overbites, underbites, crossbites. Malocclusions can result from crowded, missing, or extra teeth or jaws that are out of alignment. Typically, patients are referred to an orthodontist by their pediatric dentist. The condition may be treated using braces, clear aligners, palatal expanders, or headgear, each of which straightens the teeth by moving them through the underlying bone.
While our teeth may appear to be solid, they’re actually laced with countless, tiny passages called canals that contain sensitive living tissue (pulp), blood vessels, and nerves. Endodontists specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases and injuries of the dental pulp or the nerves of the teeth. They do simple to complex root canals and other types of surgical root procedures.
Hopefully, a smile comes effortlessly for you. But there’s a lot that goes into it. Prosthodontists, who restore and replace lost or damaged teeth, have a unique understanding of both the aesthetics and dynamics of a natural-looking smile. Their treatments include crowns, bridges, and dentures. Prosthodontists, along with periodontists, also perform reconstruction following oral cancer treatment and traumatic mouth injuries. And they can correct jaw joint problems and snoring and sleep disorders.
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon
An oral and maxillofacial surgeon performs a spectrum of surgeries the can include the mouth, jaw, and the entire face. They range from simple tooth extractions, to the removal of impacted teeth (especially wisdom teeth), to fractured cheek or jaw repair, to the removal of tumors and cysts from the jaw. Generally, however, oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform the most complex surgical procedures or the ones that require the deepest levels of sedation. They receive anywhere from four to eight years of additional training following dental school.
Periodontists specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of gum disease (which affects half of adult population in the United States) and oral inflammation. With a range of surgical procedures within their ability, periodontists often treat patients with the most severe gum problems. Though, they also offer a wide range of treatments for common issues, including scaling and root planing, in which the infected surface of a tooth root is cleaned, and root surface debridement, where damaged gum tissue is removed.
That’s who we are in broad strokes. As for me, I opened my practice here in Princeton in 1989. I’ve performed over 8,000 dental implant procedures during the last 30 years. I’m certified with the American Board of Oral Implantology/Implant Dentistry. And, recently, I was awarded a Fellowship by the American Academy of Implant Dentistry.
More important than the credentials, however, is how I treat my patients. I don’t know anyone who isn’t at least a little anxious sitting in a dentist’s chair. I’m responsible for dispelling those fears. To that end, familiarity is the foundation of every treatment I perform, no matter how straightforward or involved. After all, familiarity breeds comfort.
If you’re looking for a periodontist, or it’s been a while since you’ve seen a dentist, schedule an appointment with me. At our consultation, I’ll conduct a Comprehensive Periodontal Evaluation so that we can get you back to smiling with confidence as soon as you’re ready.
More than 10 million Americans are living with an eating disorder, yet less than half will ever seek treatment for it, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. If you think that could never be you or someone close to you, consider this:
- A 2007 study surveyed 9,282 Americans about an array of mental health conditions, including eating disorders. About 2 percent of the men and 3.5 percent of the women met the criteria for a binge eating disorder at some point in their lives, which makes it three times more common than anorexia and bulimia combined and more widespread than breast cancer or HIV.
- A 2016 study found that up 40 percent of overweight girls and 37 percent of overweight boys are teased about their weight by peers or family members, and that teasing predicts weight gain, binge eating, and extreme weight control measures.
I’m addressing this subject here, first, because we clearly need to be doing more as a society to resolve this crisis. If you aren’t directly affected, someone close to you almost certainly is. Second, and not insignificantly, an eating disorder can be disastrous to your oral health.
In fact, changes in the mouth are often the first physical signs of an eating disorder. So, hygienists, dentists, and periodontists are, in many cases, the first line of protection.
The effects are swift and severe
Denial is to an eating disorder what a lit match is to a parched forest in the high heat of summer. Almost immediately, it takes over and blunts judgement. From the inside, it may appear as though you’re in full control of your body. In truth, dental issues can begin cropping up from just six months of consistent eating disorder behavior, such as restricting calories and purging.
Here’s a look at some of the most common ways an eating disorder can ravage your mouth:
- Consuming too little food usually leads to a nutrient deficiency, which can impact your oral health in several negative ways. A lack of calcium, for one, promotes tooth decay and gum disease. Not enough iron can lead to sores on the inside of your mouth. And too little vitamin B3 (niacin) can contribute to persistent bad breath and the growth of canker sores. Your gums can also become red and swollen, which is usually a sign of gingivitis, the earliest phase of gum disease.
- When we vomit, strong stomach acid washes over our teeth. When it happens frequently over a sustained period, eventually the enamel (the tooth’s protective outer layer) will erode and your teeth will become brittle, translucent, and weak. The edges of your teeth will then begin to break off easily. Trying to compensate by vigorously brushing and rinsing after vomiting can actually make those problems even worse.
- Constant purging can lead to redness, scratches, and cuts inside your mouth, especially what’s referred to as the soft palate, or the upper surface. A frequent binge-and-purge cycle can also enlarge the salivary glands to the extent that they become painful and visible. It’s also common to develop degenerative arthritis within the temporomandibular joint in the jaw, which is the spot where the jaw hinges to the skull.
Recovery is possible
Those effects, among others, can be lingering and even permanent. The key to ensuring as much of a complete recovery as possible is early detection. Reading this blog post counts in that regard, because recognition begins with awareness, which starts with arming yourself with the right information and seeking appropriate guidance from your dentist or periodontist.
It’s important to understand that frequent and honest communication with your dentist or periodontist is critical to the recovery process. Anything said between the patient and doctor is confidential, so the exam room can be treated as a safe place to disclose past and ongoing struggles with an eating disorder. Anything said during those conversations will only be used to help you.
The frequency is just as important as the openness of those talks because, in spite of the best intentions, binging and purging is a difficult cycle to break, which makes relapse a likely possibility. So the closer you remain in communication with your dentist or periodontist, the better positioned they’ll be to adapt their treatment plan accordingly.
In between those appointments, should you purge again, rinse with water or a sugar-free mouthwash immediately after. But don’t brush for at least an hour. Doing it any earlier could put you at risk for scrubbing any residual stomach acid even deeper into the enamel.
The first step
Above all, remember that you’re not alone and recovery is possible. As isolated and hopeless as you, or someone you know, may feel, all it takes to begin shifting course is to trust in just one person. If I can be that person, email me directly at email@example.com to schedule an appointment.
While it’s true that periodontal disease is largely a threat to adults, gingivitis, a mild form of periodontal disease, is often found in kids and teens. In fact, more than half of teens have some form of gum disease, according to a recent estimate.
Which is why it’s important as a parent to be aware of the risk factors and know how to spot the warning signs in your child. Taking your own oral hygiene seriously is also a good idea. It’ll go a long way toward encouraging the same behavior in your kids. We’ll unpack all of that here.
Gum Disease in Kids: Toddlers and bleeding gums
Toddlers’ gums can bleed from brushing for several reasons, but the build-up of plaque is one of the most common. The bacteria in their mouths feasts on the sugar in their foods and forms plaque. In time, that plaque can become tartar and lead to tooth decay and inflamed gums that bleed from brushing.
The problem’s usually easily remedied as long as it’s caught and treated early on. Get into the habit of brushing your toddler’s teeth in the morning and at night, as well as right after any sugary or starchy snacks. (You should help with the brushing until they gain the coordination to do it themselves around seven or eight.) For toddlers two and under, use the equivalent amount of a grain of rice in toothpaste. For those between three and five, keep it to a pea-size amount.
Schedule your toddler’s first dental visit around their second birthday. Most of their teeth will have grown in by then. That first visit will mostly be about familiarizing them with the process, but it’ll also give your dentist an opportunity to spot any less-obvious issues at their onset.
Changing your toddler’s diet will also improve their oral health. You don’t need to avoid juice, candy, pretzels, crackers, and pasta altogether—though, more power to you if you can. Just try to make them occasional treats.
Gum Disease in Kids: Teens and gum disease
Do you remember your teenage years? Some days, most days, it felt like your own body was conspiring against you, right? That’s actually not too far from the truth.
Hormonal changes in teens can put them at risk for periodontal disease. In other words, simply by entering puberty they become more susceptible. During puberty, an increased level of progesterone or estrogen can spur a surge in blood circulation to the gums. In turn, the gums may become more sensitive to irritants, including food particles and plaque, causing them to swell, turn red, and feel tender.
That should subside as your teen gets older as long as they’re following a good oral hygiene regimen. But puberty’s not the only risk factor for developing gum disease. They may inherit the tendency from you and your partner. Braces also make it more difficult to stave off plaque, so cleanings by a dentist may need to be done more frequently than biannually during that period.
And it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise (unless you skipped over the toddler segment) that a poor diet won’t help matters. We’re all pretty well-versed on the evils of sugar by now, but starchy foods, like fries, are trouble, too. They feed the acids that eat away at tooth enamel.
Add some lousy sleep habits and an abundance of stress—it comes from all directions at that age—and it’ll leave your teen more vulnerable to any kind of infection, including gum disease.
If they tell you their gums have been bleeding when they brush or floss, take them seriously and schedule an appointment with their dentist. But chances are, it won’t be that easy. So just try to keep a watchful eye from a safe distance.
You can’t control everything your teen eats any more than you can control what they worry about. Try to make the most of the moments when you do have some influence on them. Stock the fridge and pantry with healthy options. And lead by example.
Gum Disease in Kids: The role model
It may be way more obvious with a toddler than it is with a teen, but you are your child’s leading role model. They’re picking up on so much of what you’re doing—even when they’re pretending like they’re not.
So, if you aren’t already, get into the habit of brushing and flossing at least twice a day. And try to do it in front of your child. Or at least make them aware that you’re doing it.
Just as importantly, take your time doing it. Maybe even bone up on these brushing and flossing tips. Who knows? You could learn something. A lot of us picked up bad habits at an early age because our parents never showed us the right ways. Right the ship with your child.
And schedule regular dental visits and comprehensive periodontal evaluations. Early diagnosis ensures the greatest chance for successful treatment at all ages.
Why Are My Gums Bleeding?
You’re gazing into the mirror over the bathroom sink, lost in the ritual of your morning routine. Your hands are tugging a piece of floss, tightly strung between your two index fingers, from one side of your mouth to the other. But your mind’s back in bed or already deep in your day—until you notice a spot of blood in the sink.
What just happened? Where did that come from? You look down at the floss. Sure enough, it stained red. Was I doing it too hard? Maybe you feel around your gums with the tip of your tongue and notice an area that feels a little tender.
It’s nothing, right? When I rinse at the end of a cleaning at the dentist, there’s always a little blood. No pain, no gain.
Yes, some occasional bleeding as a result of flossing isn’t usually a problem. But it’s hard to say with total certainty because the flossing may not be the true cause. In fact, bleeding gums are a precursor for a number of larger health issues, some of them fairly serious. We’ll unpack the most common ones here.
Most often, bleeding gums are a sign of gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease. The same bacteria that can cause cavities can also get beneath your gums and cause swelling, irritation, and, eventually, bleeding.
Gingivitis is pretty easy for a dentist or periodontist to spot and treat. But, for as common as it is, it too often goes untreated. And when that happens, gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease, which is much more severe and difficult to treat.
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered that about half of American adults are walking around with periodontal disease. But I brush and floss like I’m supposed to, you’re saying. In some cases, that’s not enough. Some of us just run a greater risk for developing periodontal disease. Men, for example, are more prone to it than women by a pretty wide margin (56 percent vs. 38 percent). And while it’s true that periodontal disease is more common among older adults, don’t be so quick to brush it off if you’re in your twenties or thirties. Basically: There’s no such thing as being too young to get gum disease.
If you suspect you may have gum disease or periodontal disease—click here for a quick rundown of the most obvious symptoms—schedule an exam with me. It’s never too late to treat, but the sooner we can do so, the better.
Stress is a fact of life anymore. But when it starts to feel relentless, stress becomes a different animal that’s capable of causing physiological damage. Essentially, when we’re stressed, our bodies react in much the same way they do in the presence of infection. When that happens in prolonged bouts, that constant state of alert taxes our immune systems and, after long enough, will eventually begin to break them down, making us more susceptible to infection—including gum disease.
If you think you’re doing a decent job of managing your stress, but you’re consistently waking in the morning with a sore jaw, your body may be telling you otherwise. Even if you haven’t spotted any bleeding while you’ve been brushing or flossing, schedule an appointment with me. Clenching and grinding your teeth can put excess strain on both the teeth and the gums and, ultimately, break them down.
Hormonal fluctuations spurred by pregnancy can cause a slew of unusual things to happen to a woman’s body, including bleeding gums. About half of all pregnant women will have what’s referred to as “pregnancy gingivitis” by their second trimester.
The hormonal changes alter the body’s response to the bacteria that causes gum disease. But the symptoms—swollen gums and bleeding during brushing—almost always clear up after pregnancy, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Still, keep up with your biannual dental checkups and oral hygiene regimen to ensure that the problem doesn’t escalate.
If you’re taking blood-thinners, you’ve likely already been warned about the potential for bleeding gums. But few of us are aware that over-the-counter ibuprofen qualifies as one and, hence, carries the same risk.
As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to keep your dentist or periodontist abreast of any medications you’re taking, including ibuprofen, even if it’s only for the occasional headache or sore back. That knowledge may alter the course of a treatment they’re planning. And if you think one of those medications may be causing your gums to bleed, they’ll be to tailor your oral hygiene regimen to minimize the effect.
Poor oral hygiene
Speaking of oral hygiene, it’s kind of the elephant in the room.
Occam’s Razor is a philosophy principle that believes the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. Not to understate the significance of any of the aforementioned causes, but they all kind of assume that a basic oral hygiene regimen is in place. If it’s not, there’s really not much need to look any further.
As simply as I can put it: If you’re not brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least daily, you’re going to develop gingivitis. And unless you have it treated, it’s going to progress to periodontal disease.
Pay attention to your technique, too. You may think you’re doing yourself a favor by brushing hard or flossing aggressively around your gums, but regularly agitating your gums can also lead to gingivitis. If you have even a hint of doubt about whether you’re doing it right, check out our short oral hygiene primer.
The takeaway: Keep up with your daily oral hygiene regimen and biannual dental checkups. They’re the most effective means to remove the plaque and bacteria that can cause serious irritation and bleeding. And if you’re already experiencing it, for any reason, schedule an appointment with me. I offer a wide variety of treatments to remedy bleeding gums.
Losing a tooth as an adult is one of those scenarios that’ll probably never cross your mind until it happens to you. That realization, whether it occurs abruptly—you unknowingly bite down on a nutshell and crack a molar—or gradually—your periodontal disease progresses to the point that a tooth or two loosens—will come as a rude awakening.
But adult tooth loss is far more common than you may realize. At this very moment, 120 million people in the United States are missing at least one tooth, and more than 36 million have no teeth at all, according to the American College of Prosthodontists. And those numbers are only projected to grow over the next couple of decades as our population gets older. By 2030, it’s estimated that one in five people will be 65 or older.
Aging does put you at a heightened risk of losing a tooth—beyond the normal wear-and-tear, everyone over 35 is generally more susceptible to a host of oral health conditions—but it’s not the only risk factor. In truth, just about anyone could be at risk for adult tooth loss because it could occur in so many different ways. (More on that in a moment.) But there are a few things that could be increasing your risk.
Losing a Tooth as an Adult: Are you at greater risk?
Severe periodontal disease was found to be the leading cause of adult tooth loss in a 2015 study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology. Right behind it? Heavy smoking. Though the two pretty much go hand-in-hand. Smokers are more likely to produce bacterial plaque, which leads to gum disease, the earliest presentation of periodontal disease. And it tends to worsen faster in smokers than in nonsmokers.
Grinding your teeth is another common cause of adult tooth loss. Over time, the constant clenching can wear your teeth down, damaging the enamel and putting you at greater risk for infection and tooth decay.
Bypassing the dentist also isn’t helping your cause. Those checkups every six months may feel like a nuisance, but that’s when your dentist is able to spot potential trouble while it’s most easily treated and largely reversible.
Losing a Tooth as an Adult: All the ways you can lose a tooth
When most of us are forced to think about losing a tooth, the image that comes to mind is some sort of accident. Minor damage, like a chip, stemming from the likes of a bad bite or a blow to the face, can be repaired, but serious cracks usually require the tooth to be extracted.
On the opposite end of the timing spectrum, gum disease can gradually evolve to periodontal disease, at which point bacteria begins growing under your gum line, and as it grows, it begins to separate the tooth from the gums. The greater that gap, the higher the likelihood that the tooth is going to loosen and eventually either fall out on its own or need to be removed to prevent further damage to the surrounding teeth.
If that sounds too dramatic to ever be you, consider this: About half of American adults age 30 and older have periodontal disease at this very moment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now that we’ve got your attention, if you’re interested in learning more, check out our four-part blog series on periodontal disease, starting here with How to Tell if You May Have Periodontal Disease.
A cavity left unchecked is also asking for trouble. Caught early—again, a reason to keep those six-month checkups with your dentist—a cavity can be remedied with a filling or a dental crown. However, when it’s left untreated, a cavity can cause decay so extensive that the tooth will need to be extracted.
Losing a Tooth as an Adult: Why you need to restore a missing tooth
A cascade of negative effects begins to occur when you lose even a single tooth as an adult. Almost immediately, you compromise your other teeth and gums because they’ll begin shifting to fill the void, which, eventually, is going to lead to a misaligned bite. In the short term, that’s going to result in some discomfort and premature and uneven wear and tear on the remaining teeth. In the longer term, it could spur more tooth loss.
Also in the long term, the underlying jawbone will begin to deteriorate. It needs constant stimulation, which is easy to come by when you have a mouth full of healthy teeth. Over the course of an average day, they’ll come into contact with each other hundreds of times. The bit of vibration that results is all the stimulation that the bone needs. However, when you lose a tooth, the portion of bone beneath that gap will start to wither from inactivity.
So, remedying your missing tooth (or teeth) is clearly important to your short- and long-term oral health. How, then, should you go about? A dental implant.
An implant replaces the tooth’s root with a titanium post, unlike dentures, the longtime go-to for tooth replacement, which simply sit on top of the gums. Titanium is a biocompatible material, which means that it’ll organically fuse with your jawbone. That has a couple of significant benefits. For one, it creates a stable foundation for your crown or bridge. It’s also going to spur new bone growth. All of that is critical to the longevity of your dental implant and your oral health as a whole. But what’ll matter most to you is that your implant will look and feel natural. After a couple of meals and lots of smiling at mirrors, you’re probably going to forget it’s even there.
It’s time to start smiling more
To learn more about dental implants, schedule a comprehensive periodontal evaluation with Dr. Richard Staller by clicking here. Dr. Staller’s performed more than 8,000 dental implant procedures. It’s time to start smiling more, and Dr. Staller can help you do it.
Do you think you are too young for gum disease? Think again. A study back in 2005 kind of rocked the foundation of the dental world. Gum disease, researchers said, can start much earlier than we thought. And that wasn’t all. It can also begin without any obvious symptoms.
Up to that point, gum disease in teens and young adults wasn’t unheard of, but it was pretty widely assumed that most people were safe from periodontal problems until their mid- to late-thirties.
Researchers followed 254 people in their twenties who had opted to keep all four wisdom teeth, and what they discovered is that 60 percent already had signs of early gum disease around those teeth at the beginning of the study. Two years later, it had worsened in a quarter of them.
The findings put dentists on high alert. Wisdom teeth usually push through the gums between 17 and 25. The decision to extract them if they weren’t causing any pain or damaging other teeth was constantly debated because there weren’t any studies that proved it accomplished much of anything. But, suddenly, there was a reason to.
“People assume that if you don’t have any symptoms [of gum disease], you’re okay,” the study’s lead researcher, Raymond P. White Jr., told The Washington Post at the time. “What we’re saying is that’s not necessarily the case.”
Who’s at risk?
Of course, keeping or extracting your wisdom teeth isn’t the only decision you’ll make that will affect your gums’ health. In fact, there are a number of casual choices you make every day that carry the potential to either nurture or undermine your gums, like that Red Bull you gulped down between classes this morning. Or those M&Ms you snacked on before practice.
It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that diet plays a huge role. Your dentist probably told you during your first check-up (and every one since) that sugar is bad for your teeth. But that’s just scratching the surface. (No pun intended.) Starchy foods, like, gasp, fries, also feed the acids that eat into your tooth enamel.
And too much of the wrong food combined with too little sleep is a recipe for stress, which makes you more vulnerable to infection, and gum disease is an infection.
There are threats that are out of your control, too. Some of you are just more likely to develop gum disease because your parents are the same way, and you inherited the tendency from them. Girls have a higher risk of gum disease than guys. Increases in female sex hormones during puberty can make girls’ gums more sensitive to irritation. You may have already noticed that your gums tend to bleed a little in the days before your period.
But, maybe the most significant influence on your gums’ health is something that’s totally within your control: smoking. If you smoke or chew tobacco, you’re more likely to have plaque and tartar buildup and to show signs of advanced gum disease, according to the American Dental Association.
What’s at stake?
Maybe you’re wondering, If I can’t even tell that I have gum disease, why should it matter that I get it treated right away?
This would be a good time to explain what exactly gum disease is. Gum disease, or gingivitis, is the mildest form of periodontal disease. Basically, your gums become irritated very easily. If you spot some blood on more than a handful of occasions while brushing your teeth, that’s a good indication that you should make an appointment with your dentist.
The most important takeaway here: gum disease is reversible with professional treatment and better brushing and flossing habits. If it’s left unchecked, though, gum disease can advance to periodontal disease, and that can be harder to control.
Gradually, plaque spreads and grows below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in the plaque irritate the gums. In response, the gums go into panic mode and turn on themselves, and the tissues and bone that support the teeth start to break down. The gums separate from the teeth, forming spaces that become infected.
As the disease worsens, the spaces around the teeth grow bigger and more of the gums and bone are destroyed. Eventually, the teeth can loosen and may need to be replaced.
Even that, however, is not the worst-case scenario. Mounting research is linking the inflammation from chronic infections, like periodontal disease, to an increased risk of more serious problems, including heart disease, diabetes complications, and pregnancy trouble.
All of this is meant to underline a single point: You are not too young for gum disease. The earlier that gum disease is caught, the better. It’s easy to feel kind of invincible in your teens and twenties, but that shield falls pretty fast at the first sign of trouble. You don’t need to be paralyzed with fear. Just don’t turn away from this screen thinking, That’ll never be me.
A few posts back, we referenced a disturbing statistic: Nearly half of American adults have some form of periodontal disease. In adults 65 and older, it jumps to 70 percent. The more we thought about that, the less we could explain why it was happening.
Oral health care has never been more accessible, yet periodontal disease is being described as “one of the most prevalent non-communicable chronic diseases” of our time.
There is a silver lining, though. This is one of the those cases where a little awareness could have a profound effect, so we decided to dedicate a few blog posts to answering all the questions about periodontal disease you never knew to ask. In the first post, we defined what it is and outlined a few easy-to-spot symptoms. In the next one, we discussed how periodontal disease may have a hand in some seemingly unrelated and very serious conditions, like heart disease and diabetes. Here, we’re highlighting some of the things that are putting you at risk of developing periodontal disease.
Check back next month for the conclusion of the series, when we’ll get into how you can treat your periodontal disease.
(Mostly) Self-inflicted factors for Risk of Developing Periodontal Disease
Let’s be clear: The leading cause of periodontal disease is plaque, which is rarely an issue when you maintain a daily brushing and flossing routine and see your dentist or periodontist a couple of times a year.
That said, there are some unhealthy habits that trump even the most diligent oral health care regimen. Let’s start with the most obvious: smoking and tobacco use. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that either isn’t doing your mouth any favors. In fact, tobacco’s been shown to be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease.
Stress isn’t far behind. When there’s little reprieve, your body has a harder time fighting off infection, and periodontal disease begins as an infection. The same goes for a poor diet. Not consuming an adequate amount of nutrients hamstrings your immune system.
If you’re waking on a regular basis with a sore jaw, schedule an appointment with your dentist or periodontist. Clenching or grinding your teeth can put excess strain on the tissues supporting the teeth and even destroy them. And while you’re there, share any medications you’re taking. Some drugs, such as oral contraceptives, anti-depressants, and certain heart medicines, can affect your oral health.
Likewise, if you’ve recently been diagnosed with a systemic disease, like heart disease, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis, make sure your dentist or periodontist knows about it. Some can interfere with your body’s inflammatory response, which can worsen the condition of your gums.
And, now, for a couple of risk factors you have no control over. Like we said, periodontal disease is most rampant in seniors, so there’s aging, for one. You may also be genetically predisposed to getting periodontal disease. More positively, getting a genetic test before you ever show signs and, if necessary, seeking treatment will likely help you keep your teeth for your lifetime.
Women, what you need to know about your Risk of Developing Periodontal Disease
Unfortunately, the threats don’t end there. Though, the risk factors still looming breakdown largely along gender lines.
Preliminary research has indicated that pregnant women with periodontal disease may be at greater risk of having a baby that’s born too early and too small. It’s still too early on to say it with any certainty, but, because any infection is a cause for concern with a pregnant woman, it’s recommended, just to be on the safe side, that you have a comprehensive periodontal evaluation if you’re considering conceiving.
Girls (and their parents) should start paying closer attention to their gums with the onset of puberty. Increased levels of sex hormones, like progesterone and possibly estrogen, may increase the gums’ sensitivity and lead to a greater reaction to an irritation, including plaque.
Up to that point, periodontal disease is rare in kids and only sometimes found in adolescents. Though, it’s a critical time to instill those oral health care habits.
Some women experience a condition called menstruation gingivitis, during which the gums may swell and bleed and sores may appear on the inside of the cheek right before the start of a period. Typically, it clears up once her period begins.
And, women who are menopausal or post-menopausal may begin to notice discomfort in their mouths, including dry mouth, pain and burning sensations in the gums, and an altered sense of taste. A small percentage of women experience a condition called menopausal gingivostomatitis, where the gums become discolored and bleed easily. Estrogen supplements can help relieve the symptoms in most women.
Each of these conditions is a kind of gingivitis, the mildest form of periodontal disease. Untreated, it can progress to periodontal disease. But, everything can be addressed during a routine checkup.
Men, what you need to know about your Risk of Developing Periodontal Disease
For men, it’s less about fending off heightened inherent risks than it is getting out of your own way.
Men are more prone to periodontal disease than women by a pretty significant margin (56 percent vs. 38 percent). There are a couple of theories on this. Men may simply experience higher incidences of plaque and bleeding gums. They may also be more reluctant to see a dentist or a periodontist, which enables minor instances of gingivitis to flourish unchecked.
But, guys, there are a slew of reasons why you need to be paying better attention to what’s going on inside your mouths. For starters, men with a history of gum disease are 14 percent more likely to develop cancer than men with healthy gums. More specifically, men with periodontal disease are 49 percent more likely to develop kidney cancer than women, 54 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30 percent more likely to develop blood cancers. A half-hour in the exam chair every six months doesn’t seem like such a nuisance now, does it?
There’s even more to the cancer threat. A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is an enzyme created in the prostate that’s normally secreted in small amounts. Its levels rise, however, when the prostate becomes inflamed, infected, or affected by cancers. Research is indicating that men who show signs of periodontal disease, like swollen or tender gums, as well as prostatitis, have higher levels of PSA than men with only one of the conditions, meaning prostate health may be associated with periodontal health, and vice versa.
Not to hit you again where it hurts most, but men with periodontal disease, especially those younger than 30 and older than 70, are at increased risk of developing impotence. Researchers are thinking that prolonged chronic inflammation—the very kind associated with periodontal disease—can damage blood vessels, including the ones down there.
So much of this, for men and women, comes down to simply being more aware of your health, both overall and in your mouth. Again, the top takeaway with periodontal disease is: It’s easy to prevent.
Periodontal disease, which also goes by gum disease, is a leading cause of tooth loss. Increasingly, research is also strengthening the link between it and other chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.
You’d think that’s enough to warrant a spot on our radars, maybe not among the most urgent threats, but at least among the kinds of concerns that need regular monitoring, like the aforementioned chronic diseases. Because here’s the thing: It’s so easily preventable. Brush and floss a couple times a day and see your dentist, as recommended, for a check-up and cleaning and you’re pretty much in the clear.
And yet a recent, groundbreaking study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that almost half of American adults age 30 and older have periodontal disease. As easy as it is to prevent, it’s just as easy for a dentist or periodontist to spot, which means that millions of unsuspecting adults are walking around with some degree of periodontal disease and don’t even realize it.
Could you imagine if half of us were in some stage of heart failure and didn’t know it? Because relatively little effort is needed to remedy this situation, it’s a rare opportunity to have a meaningful impact on one of the “most prevalent non-communicable chronic diseases in our population,” which is how periodontal disease has been described, with a grassroots campaign. So, to try to heighten awareness and put a dent in that gaudy figure, we’re starting a brief series with this post that’s going to show you exactly what periodontal disease looks like, the various reasons why you need to keep it out of your mouth, and the treatments that are available if you do have it.
Spotting the symptoms of periodontal disease
Let’s start with a little self-exam. Gum disease can be hard to spot by the untrained eye. A lot of the symptoms don’t become all that prevalent until the advanced stage of the disease. There are, however, several warning signs that may indicate you have the start of gum disease. They include:
- Red, swollen or tender gums or other pain in your mouth
- Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard food
Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer than before
- Loose or separating teeth
- Pus between your gums and teeth
- Sores in your mouth
- Persistent bad breath
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- A change in the fit of partial dentures
Keep in mind, the presence of any one or two of these conditions is not a clear indication that you have gum disease. But they do warrant a more thorough examination by a dentist or periodontist.
What exactly is gum disease?
Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease. The gums become red, swollen, and tend to bleed easily, but there’s usually little or no discomfort at this point.
It arises, in most cases, from not brushing and flossing consistently or having a professional cleaning done on a regular basis, though there are factors that can heighten the risk, including diabetes, smoking, a genetic predisposition, systematic diseases and conditions, malnutrition, hormonal fluctuations, pregnancy, puberty, substance abuse, HIV infection, certain medication use, stress, and simple aging.
Left unchecked, gingivitis can advance to periodontal disease, also known as periodontitis. Over time, plaque can begin to spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums and stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body basically turns on itself. The tissues and bone that support the teeth break down. Gums separate from the teeth and spaces form between the teeth and the gums that become infected. Those spaces deepen as the disease progresses, and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed in the process.
For such a destructive process, the symptoms are fairly mild. But, if periodontal disease goes untreated long enough, teeth loosen and may need to be removed.
Periodontitis comes in a number of forms, but these are the most common:
Chronic periodontitis is the most frequently occurring kind of periodontitis. It’s prevalent in adults, but it can occur at any age.
Aggressive periodontitis occurs in patients who are otherwise healthy. The destruction of the bone and the spacing between the teeth and gums occur much more quickly than they typically would.
Periodontitis as a manifestation of systematic disease, such as heart disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes, can begin at a young age. Periodontal disease, otherwise, is rare in kids and only sometimes found in adolescents.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, or at least enough of the basic warning signs to schedule an exam with a dentist or periodontist, check back with us next month, when we’ll get into why you need to make those exams a habit.
Are your gums bleeding easily or are they painful and swollen? Have you been told by your dentist that you are developing gum disease? If so you need to see a periodontist who can keep your gum disease from developing any further. If you want to see a Princeton gum specialist, you will want to visit us at Princeton Periodontics & Implants LLC.
At our office, Dr. Richard C. Staller is our expert periodontist. Our office has state of the art technology that helps him to treat his patients for all phases of periodontal disease. Dr. Staller applies a conservative approach to treatment, and does not do any extreme treatment unless it is definitely deemed necessary. Although there are times when you may need our Princeton gum specialist, there are also a lot of things you can know that will help you with the prevention of gum disease. Gum disease is very common; three out of every four adults will get gum disease at some point in their life. The main cause of gum disease is plaque. Plaque causes the gums to become infected. Plaque contains a lot of bacteria which is very bad for the gums and teeth. When plaque is allowed to stay on teeth it hardens into tartar – a mineralized substance. Tartar simply cannot be removed from the teeth without the use of professional dental cleaning instruments – no amount of brushing or flossing will remove it. Tartar will eventually get between the gums and teeth and form what are called deep pockets. As the pockets deepen, more bacteria and tartar gather. This is when you are said to have gum disease. Our Princeton gum specialist will be able to perform scaling and root planing to help clean the tartar and bacteria out, and hopefully reduce the deep pockets.
Even with the best at home brushing and flossing methods, people can still develop periodontal disease. So if you have been working very hard at keeping your mouth clean, but you are developing gum disease, realize sometimes it just happens. The important thing to know is that if you develop gum disease you will need professional dental help to keep it from progressing. Regular professional dental cleanings also are instrumental in helping prevent gum disease from developing. However, our Princeton gum specialist can definitely help any patient who is suffering from gum disease. There are many periodontal treatments available that can help restore your gums to good health. The very first step to take is to contact us at Princeton Periodontics & Implants LLC for an appointment. In fact, that is the only hard part – then simply leave the rest up to us!
601 Ewing Street, Suite B10
Princeton, NJ 08540
Here at Princeton Periodontics & Implants LLC, we believe our gum disease prevention in Princeton is one of our most important specialties. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a serious condition that affects many adults today. Gum disease is a condition in which the gums get progressively inflamed and infected. If gum disease is left untreated, it can lead to serious problems like tooth loss and bone degeneration. Ina addition, the infection can spread to other parts of the body. That is why it is important to follow our gum disease prevention in Princeton, and to treat your gum disease early if you notice any symptoms. Some telltale signs of periodontal disease to be aware of include: gums that have a redder appearance, increased tenderness of the gums, pain in the gums, and bleeding from the gums. In some cases, you might notice that your teeth look longer than usual—this can mean that your gums are receding, and are a serious sign of gum disease. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment here at Princeton Periodontics & Implants LLC as soon as possible. We will provide you with the deep cleanings and any other treatments necessary to clear away your symptoms and heal your gums. After your treatment plan is completed, we will work with you to provide gum disease prevention in Princeton so that you will not need to go through the process again.
If you would like to learn more about what our gum disease prevention in Princeton entails, or if you are interested in learning about any of the other many services available to you here at Princeton Periodontics & Implants LLC, we highly recommend that you visit our practice’s main website to browse through some additional information that you might find useful. If you have any specific questions or concerns that you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact the staff here directly. You can reach us by giving us a call here at the office, or by sending us a message online. We look forward to working with soon here at Princeton Periodontics & Implants LLC.