Billions of bacteria live in each of our mouths, sharing a common environment with teeth and soft tissues. Most of the time, they coexist in symbiotic balance. But sometimes that balance becomes disrupted, leading to a destructive condition known as periodontal disease.
From the Latin peri (“around”) and the Greek odont (“tooth”), periodontal refers to the tissues that are around the teeth. When they become diseased, it's a serious matter; and not just because of potential tooth loss — there is evidence that periodontal disease has links to cardiovascular disease and, for pregnant women, low birth weights in pre-term babies.
There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing periodontal disease, like smoking, poor nutrition, and your systemic health. The biggest factor, however, is increased bacterial plaque due to poor oral hygiene practices.
Periodontal disease is progressive. As unhealthy bacteria levels increase, the bacteria eventually cause bone loss, the gums separate from the teeth and create what is referred to as periodontal pockets. As the pockets deepen around the teeth, plaque and tartar become extremely difficult to remove, even if you resume a proper hygiene routine. At this stage, treating the disease will require a different approach. And if left untreated, the teeth will most likely continue to lose bone and eventually be lost.
Through a dental exam, we can determine the presence and extent of the disease and recommend a treatment strategy. Besides lifestyle changes and better hygiene habits, this strategy might also include treatment with antibiotics, a thorough mechanical cleaning to remove tartar and plaque, surgical techniques to remove infected tissue, or occlusal bite therapy.
Above all, prevention is the key. Through proper dental hygiene and regular dental exams and cleanings, stopping periodontal disease from beginning in the first place is your best defense.
If you would like more information on the treatment of periodontal disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Understanding Gum Disease.”
For some kids, having a cavity or two is just part of growing up. Not for Giuliana Rancic. When she was a child, the TV personality didn't have a single cavity — and she still doesn't. But for her husband Bill, co-star of the Style Network reality show Giuliana and Bill, it was a different story. A cavity-prone kid, he was never certain what a visit to the dentist might hold in store. “I can still remember the anticipation,” he recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “I always hoped I would get out of the checkups without a cavity!”
Why do some people get more cavities than others? There are a number of factors at work, but to understand it better, let's look at how tooth decay occurs.
How Cavities Form
Cavities — also called dental caries — are small pits or holes in the teeth that are caused by tooth decay. Tooth decay itself is a chronic disease that can flare up when plaque isn't kept under control. A thin, bacteria-laden film, plaque sticks to tooth surfaces both above and below the gum line, and can build up in the absence of effective oral hygiene.
Of course, everyone has bacteria in their mouth, both “good” and “bad” (pathogenic) types. But when the bad guys outnumber the good, trouble can start. When you consume sweets, plaque bacteria process the sugars and release acid as a byproduct. The acid eats into tooth surfaces, causing decay — and cavities that need filling. Left untreated, decay can work its way into the tooth's pulp, resulting in infection and pain. Eventually, treatment might involve a root canal — or, in the worst case, extraction.
What can you do if you seem to be prone to cavities? One effective way to fight tooth decay is by maintaining good oral hygiene. Brush at least twice daily, for at least two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled brush and a dab of fluoride toothpaste to clean all around your teeth. Most importantly, floss above and below the gum line, every day. And just as important, don't forget to have regular dental checkups every six months.
A Healthy Balance
Another cavity-fighting strategy is eating a balanced diet. Avoid soda, sugary “energy” drinks and sweet treats — but if you choose to consume sugar, have it with meals instead of between meals. This will give your saliva, which has natural cavity-fighting properties, a chance to work.
“It's all about maintaining a healthy balance,” Giuliana told Dear Doctor. And Bill agrees: “I love nuts and fruit for a healthy snack,” he said, adding that he's meticulous about brushing and flossing. And when the couple smiles, you can see how those healthy habits pay off.
If you would like more information on preventing tooth decay, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Decay” and “Tooth Decay – How To Assess Your Risk.”