What is Gum Disease and How is it Treated?
Periodontal disease or gum disease is an infection of your gums that begins when bacteria accumulate at and below the gum line. Your immune system reacts as it would with any bacterial invasion. The process of inflammation starts and then the white blood cells start moving in to do battle with the bacteria. All this chemical warfare destroys the attachment of the gum tissue to the root of the tooth and can eventually dissolve the bone that holds your teeth in the jawbone. When bacteria has been undisturbed, it begins to mineralize and this hardened material above and below the gum line is referred to as tarter or calculus. This build-up of calculus irritates the gums further and is a great place for new plaque to form and cause more problems. It is a vicious cycle and is often painless until the later stages. Periodontal disease can have wide spread negative effects on your health, but the good news is that there are many ways to treat this very common and devastating disease that are more comfortable and effective than ever before!
Since no one can brush and floss away every bacterial cell from around their teeth, what is a person to do? The answer lies in the relationship to the immune system alluded to above. You don’t have to get rid of them all to have healthy gums because some are good” bacteria and we can usually count on our immune system to keep the bad ones in a balance. When the “bad” bacteria get out of balance and get the upper hand, the gum tissue starts to detach from the root of the tooth. These are a few things that cause an imbalance:
- bacteria building up below the gum line.
- A weak or over burdened immune system as in a patient who smokes, or a person who is battling other chronic inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity (more than 30% of your body weight is made up of fat), cancer, etc.
Once you have been diagnosed with gum disease, we try and identify the causes and recommend an approach that usually includes:
- Professional care: treatment, patient education, and training in self care
- Home care: Use of an automatic tooth brush and some cleaning technique for in between your teeth that must be done twice daily!
- Strengthen your immune system by reducing your system wide levels of inflammation: Details on how to do this can be found in several books written recently on the relationships of food to health and immune status: Super Immunity and Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman are great resources.
- Long term supportive care (hygiene visits) every three months