Healthy Gums Are For More Than Just Looks

Periodontal disease, or gum disease as it is commonly referred to, affects fifty percent of adults over the age of 30! Yes, that’s right, 1 in 2 people have some form of periodontal disease. Luckily it is possible to reverse the effects of gum disease. Do you have questions about periodontal health or how to maintain healthy teeth and gums? Here are expert answers to common concerns.

What can I do at home to prevent periodontal disease?
The best way to prevent periodontal disease is to take good care of your teeth and gums. Brush your teeth after every meal and before bedtime. Floss at least once each day. See your dentist or periodontist for professional cleanings. Spending a few minutes a day on prevention may save you the time and money of treating advanced periodontal disease!

What are common signs and symptoms of periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is often silent. Bleeding, pain, and looseness of teeth may not appear until an advanced stage of the disease. However, you should still be on the lookout for the signs and symptoms, which include: Red, swollen or tender gums or other pain in your mouth; bleeding while brushing, flossing, or when eating certain foods; gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer than before; loose or separating teeth; pus between your gums and teeth; sores in your mouth; persistent bad breath; a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite; and a change in the fit of partials or dentures. If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to contact a periodontist right away!

Is periodontal disease contagious?
Research has shown that periodontal disease is caused by the inflammatory reaction to bacteria under the gums. Bacteria that cause the inflammatory reaction can be spread through saliva. This means that if one of your family members has periodontal disease, it’s a good idea to avoid contact with their saliva by not sharing eating utensils or oral health equipment. If you notice that your spouse or a family member has the warning signs of a possible periodontal problem (bleeding, red and swollen gums, or bad breath) you may want to suggest that they see the periodontist for an exam. It may help to protect the oral health of everyone in the family.

How is gum disease linked to cardiovascular disease?
Research has shown that periodontal disease may increase the risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Both periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease are chronic inflammatory diseases. Researchers believe that inflammation may account for the association between the two. Untreated periodontal disease can increase inflammation in the body, which may increase the risk for development of more severe health complications, including cardiovascular disease and many other body illnesses.

I have big gums and short teeth, so when I smile you can almost only see my gums. Is there a way to improve my smile?
Yes, there may be a way to enhance your smile. It’s a good idea to discuss your options with a periodontist first. He or she can explain the best way to create the smile you want, as well as answer any questions that you may have. Excess gum tissue can be removed, the gum line is then reshaped in order to create the right proportion between gum tissue and tooth surface. Your general dentist and periodontist may also work together to coordinate additional treatments such as veneers or crowns to give you a beautiful smile you will love.

If you suspect periodontal disease or are interested in correcting a gummy smile, schedule an appointment with a periodontist TODAY.

Frequently asked questions courtesy of The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). Learn more at www.perio.org.

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Dr. Karl Smith
Dr. Karl Smith has been in dental practice for over thirty-four years. He received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1981 and immediately entered General Practice in the US Air Force Dental Corps. He successfully completed three additional years of advanced education in the specialty of Periodontics with additional training in IV Sedation and Dental Implants in 1992, at the University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio and Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center. He won the John Pritchard Prize for outstanding research which included looking for a vaccine against bacteria that cause periodontal disease. Dr. Smith completed a Master of Business Administration degree with a Certificate in Health Services Management while working full time as a Periodontist. In his free time Dr. Smith enjoys traveling nationally and internationally. He is an expert skier and enjoys playing other sports including tennis. Family time with his five children and many grandchildren is also very important to him. Dr. Smith's team describes him as a dentist with superpowers! They know that when he speaks with his patients, he does so with a great deal of care and concern, and because he has a genuine desire to improve their lives and smiles! Dr. Smith is a member of many dental organizations including the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Periodontology.