Ask the Dentistry Expert – Janae Cooper

Ask the Dentistry Expert – Janae Cooper

Gum Disease Prevention and Treatment

Gum disease is something that people often hear about on toothpaste commercials or from a healthcare professional, and for a long time was never really considered in the world of dentistry. Today the prevention of gum disease is one of the most important things you can do to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Most people don’t know that gum disease can be broken down into different categories of severity: gingivitis and periodontitis. Both of these stages of gum disease are easily prevented and likely treatable with visits to a dental hygienist. To make cleanings easier and more comfortable, at our office we offer both local anesthetic and nitrous oxide at dental hygiene appointments.

Gingivitis

Do your gums bleed when you brush or floss? If so, you have gingivitis. Everyday we are exposed to plaque bacteria through the foods that we eat and from our own natural saliva. If plaque bacteria is left to sit in the mouth for too long, it will begin to multiply and make its way into the gums that surround the teeth. Immediately, your body recognizes this as an infection and will try to fight back, thus causing some irritation of the gums. Some obvious clinical signs of this include bleeding gums, redness, and sometimes even a puffy or “spongy” appearance. In these early stages, the developing inflammatory process can be completely reversed with professional dental hygiene, brushing and flossing, or by other techniques recommended by your dental hygienist.

Periodontitis

If the plaque bacteria is left in your gums for too long, gingivitis will progress into what is called periodontitis. This is when the bacteria becomes much more aggressive and begins to destroy both the gums and the bone that surrounds your teeth. The clinical signs of this are similar to gingivitis but more severe; the inflammation specifically will become more dramatic with more bleeding, distinct redness and a “rounded” appearance of the gums. It is important to realize that teeth are held in place by the bone that makes up the jaw, and once the plaque bacteria destroys enough of this bone, the teeth will become compromised. In the more severe stages of periodontitis the gums will recede and the teeth will appear “long” or even become loose. Even though this gum disease is treatable, the damage that is caused to the teeth and gums from periodontitis is most often permanent.

Prevention and treatment

The most important strategy for preventing gum disease is daily removal of plaque bacteria through brushing and flossing. Brushing should be done morning and night for two minutes each time and flossing should occur at least once a day. This accompanied by regular visits to a dental hygienist will ensure that your teeth and gums are healthy and plaque-free. A dental hygienist will perform hand scaling or ultrasonic scaling to remove any plaque bacteria or “tarter” that has accumulated on the teeth. Patients with advanced periodontitis will have plaque bacteria that is far below the gum line, which can sometimes be painful during removal by the hygienist. This is normal and will improve over time, but in the mean time our office offers many options to make it a painless experience, including local anesthetic and nitrous oxide.

Supplemental treatments

“Local anesthetic” refers to the typical freezing or numbing of a specific area or areas of the mouth through injection. This technique will make the appointment pain-free for someone with gum disease. Many hygienists, like dentists, are trained to administer local anesthetic and practice it on a daily basis. Another option for a more relaxed dental hygiene appointment is the use of nitrous oxide or “laughing gas”. This option won’t “put you to sleep” but it will make you feel more relaxed and take the edge off. You will experience a feeling of floating, possibly even tingling, pain relief, and time will seem to pass more quickly. This is a great option for someone with any anxiety about dental appointments. The best part is that once the gas is turned off, you will be back to normal in minutes and able to go about your day.

In addition to being gentle, the dental hygienists at Sun City Dental offer both local anesthetic and nitrous oxide to all of our patients. It is our goal to make your appointment as comfortable and pain-free as possible. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Give us a call at 403-548-0028.