The Specialist

Gum disease affects over 70 percent of adults

Do your gums bleed when you brush? Do you have chronic bad breath? Do you have shaky teeth or know family members who suffer from early teeth loss? One of the most common diseases in the world is periodontal disease. Statistics show that more than 70 percent of adults suffer from some form of periodontal disease. Today, the greatest challenge is that many people suffer from lack of information and appropriate treatment.

Periodontal or gum disease is an infection caused by bacterial plaque. The scientific terminology is called gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is a mild swelling with bleeding around the gums, however, there is no bone loss. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of the disease and is reversible. There is no bone loss with gingivitis, so if the bacteria are removed effectively, the inflammation is controlled.

Periodontitis, on the other hand, results in loss of bone support around your teeth. Despite the hundreds of products advertised, none claim to arrest periodontitis. So, despite the many products that we see on the shelves and on our screens, they really do not get to the source of your periodontal disease, which is the bacteria within the pocket.

The leading causes of periodontitis include bacterial plaque associated with poor oral hygiene, genetics and smoking.


Bacterial plaque

Plaque is bacteria that colonizes on your teeth and around your gum line. It forms as a sticky film of millions of bugs forming a colony. It feeds on other bacteria, sugar and their waste.

A periodontist or a skilled dentist is able to remove the buildup of these germs through a comprehensive treatment plan. If not removed in a timely fashion, the plaque hardens on the root surface above and below the gum line. The hardened plaque is called calculus. Calculus is rough and therefore collects more plaque. These plaque feed on the other bacteria, dietary sugars and their waste. The result is bone loss and pocket development. A pocket is a space filled with a jelly-like mass where the bone should be. Bacteria now live in these pockets forming and reforming colonies of more and more aggressive bugs. As the pocket becomes deeper and deeper, the tooth starts to loosen.

Once the infection begins, the plaque and calculus have to be mechanically removed by a process called scaling and root planing. If the dentist does not correct this, the pockets will never heal. When this happens, the pockets remain septic, odorous, easily bleed and sometimes develop pus in the form of an abscess.


Genetic factors

A family history of periodontal disease makes you more prone to get gum disease. It is proven that genetic factors impair inflammatory and immune responses during periodontal disease thereby making you more susceptible to disease progression. This also makes the progression of the disease more aggressive.


Smoking

Smoking is a well-established risk factor for periodontal disease. Smoking changes the colony of the germs making them more aggressive and relentless, causing considerable damage to your cells. Also, your immune system becomes compromised thereby making you more susceptible to further bone loss. Further, the toxic compounds in the smoke damages your oral tissues and dampens the normal inflammatory response. Smoking damages immune cells making you more susceptible to gum disease.

A greater understanding of your genetics and good oral care habits should be a priority for good dental health. People with a genetic history of gum diseases are disadvantaged, however, they are not doomed. With timely and effective treatment, these patients also enjoy a lifetime of good oral health. A healthy mouth is the first step toward a healthy body.

    
• Dr. Kendal V.O. Major is the founder and CEO of the Center for Specialized Dentistry, which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in New Providence and Grand Bahama. He is the first Bahamian specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He is also a certified fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, New Providence. He can be contacted at (242) 325-5165 or kmajorcsd@gmail.com

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