What is gum disease?
Gum disease describes swelling, soreness or infection of the tissues supporting the teeth. There are two main forms of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontal disease.
What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis means inflammation of the gums. This is when the gums around the teeth become very red and swollen. Often the swollen gums bleed when they are brushed during cleaning.
What is periodontal disease?
Long-standing gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease. There are a number of types of periodontal disease and they all affect the tissues supporting the teeth. As the disease gets worse the bone anchoring the teeth in the jaw is lost, making the teeth loose. If this is not treated, the teeth may eventually fall out.
Am I likely to suffer from gum disease?
Probably. Most people suffer from some form of gum disease, and it is the major cause of tooth loss in adults. However, the disease develops very slowly in most people, and it can be slowed down to a rate that should allow you to keep most of your teeth for life.
What is the cause of gum disease?
All gum disease is caused by plaque. Plaque is a film of bacteria, which forms on the surface of the teeth and gums every day. Many of the bacteria in plaque are completely harmless, but there are some that have been shown to be the main cause of gum disease. To prevent and treat gum disease, you need to make sure you remove all the plaque from your teeth every day. This is done by brushing and flossing.
What do I do if I think I have gum disease?
The first thing to do is visit your dentist for a thorough check-up of your teeth and gums. The dentist can measure the 'cuff' of gum around each tooth to see if there is any sign that periodontal disease has started. X-rays may also be needed to see the amount of bone that has been lost. This assessment is very important, so the correct treatment can be prescribed for you.
What treatments are needed?
Your dentist or the dental hygienist will usually give your teeth a thorough clean. You'll also be shown how to remove plaque successfully yourself, cleaning all surfaces of your teeth thoroughly and effectively. This may take a number of sessions with the dentist or hygienist.
What else may be needed?
Once your teeth are clean, your dentist may decide to carry out further cleaning of the roots of the teeth, to make sure that the last pockets of bacteria are removed.
You'll probably need the treatment area to be numbered before anything is done. Afterwards, you may feel some discomfort for up to 48 hour.
Once I have had periodontal disease, can I get it again?
Periodontal disease is never cured. But as long as you keep up the home care you have been taught, any further loss of bone will be very slow and it may stop altogether. However, you must make sure you remove plaque every day, and go for regular check ups by the dentist and hygienist.
What Is The Hygienists Role In The Practice?
The hygienist's main role is to provide professional cleaning of the teeth for the patient. This is usually called scaling and polishing. However, perhaps their most important role is the education of the patient in the best way to keep the teeth free of plaque. Our hygienists work closely with the dentist and nurses to provide care tailored to your needs.
Why Is This Treatment Important?
Regular professional cleaning combined with your home care will help maintain a healthy mouth. A clean and healthy mouth will improve your appearance, help you keep your teeth and give you fresh breath. Poor gum health is now known to be related to heart problems later in life.
Can A Hygienist Help Prevent Dental Disease?
The training of the hygienist is centred around preventing dental disease (gum disease and tooth decay). Carefully removing the deposits that build up on the teeth (tartar) and teaching you how to prevent it reforming again, will go a long way to slowing the progress of gum disease. By discussing your diet and recommending other preventive measures your decay rate can also be reduced. Remember prevention is free - you do it yourself!
What Help Is Available For Children?
Children can benefit from having their teeth polished and being shown how to brush correctly. Techniques learned as a child will be used throughout life. The hygienist can apply fluoride gels and solutions to help prevent decay. The permanent back teeth can benefit from having the fissures sealed. This is done by applying a special plastic coating to the biting surface soon after they erupt into the mouth.
What Other Help Is Available To Adults?
Adults can benefit from preventive measures such as the application of fluoride. They can also have anti-bacterial gels and solutions applied under the gum to kill the bacteria causing gum disease.
Another very important part of the hygienist's work, is the regular instruction and advice on home care. The hygienist may suggest giving up smoking as this will reduce staining. Recent research has shown that smokers have more gum disease and lose more teeth than non-smokers.
Why Doesn't The Dentist Do This Work?
Some dentists will carry out this type of work. However, many now recognise that the hygienist has been specially trained to carry out scaling and polishing and can spend longer with you. They are expert at teaching you how to look after your teeth and gums. Often the hygienist will spend a number of appointments getting the gums healthy ready for the dentist to restore the teeth with crowns and fillings.
Will The Treatment Hurt?
Scaling and polishing is usually pain-free. However, if you do experience some discomfort the hygienist can eliminate this with the use of topical anaesthetic creams or by giving you some local anaesthetic. It is important that you let the hygienist know at the time so that some pain control can be given.
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