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Gum Disease

What is gum disease?
Periodontal or gum disease is a bacterial infection in the gums and bone that support your teeth. The infection leads to inflammation under the gums and if not treated, this inflammation can destroy the bone and soft tissue around your teeth, resulting in premature tooth loss. 75% of all adult tooth loss is due to gum disease.

What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the first sign of gum disease. This is when the gums become swollen and inflamed and bleed easily, especially when brushing. During this stage the bacteria in hardened plaque pockets build up causing the gums to become irritated and swell. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate dental hygiene and can be reversed with appropriate oral home care and professional treatment. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease, or gum disease.

What causes gum disease?
This is when the plaque deposits begin to eat away at the bone and soft tissue surrounding your teeth, causing the gums to pull away. This in turn creates more space for bacteria collect and multiply. Toxins created by the bacteria cause gum and bone corrosion which spreads as the process continues. When enough bone and tissue is damaged, the teeth are no longer securely anchored and this can result in permanent tooth loss. Gum disease may be present without any symptoms which is why regular dental check-ups are recommended.

What does a periodontist do?
A periodontist is a specialist in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of gum disease. They will be able to recognise symptoms of gum disease and recommend the appropriate treatment. Home treatment involves a high level of oral hygiene
and plaque control. A dental hygienist will assist in the meticulous removal of plaque deposits from the gum pockets, thereby preventing the spread of bacteria to the soft tissue and bone.

How oral health impacts your total health?
According to the American Dental Association, other factors can affect the health of your gums.

Recent studies have shown that smokers have an increased risk of developing periodontal disease. If you are a smoker, you should have regular periodontal check-ups.

Clinical research has linked periodontal disease to more serious problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, strokes and preterm pregnancies. This is because periodontal disease is a bacterial infection and bacteria can enter the blood stream and travel to major organs and begin new infections. People who have heart conditions, diabetes or compromised immune systems need to take extra care as they will be more prone to developing infections. Periodontal disease can also be hereditary, so if you have a family history of gum disease, be sure to get yourself checked regularly by a periodontist.

For any queries regarding periodontal disease or to book a specialist consultation, please contact the surgery.

Dr Hans van Heerden
         
 
       
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