- Gum Disease (Gingivitis)
- What is the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis?
- What are the symptoms of gingivitis?
- What causes gingivitis?
- What are the risk factors and complications of gingivitis?
- How is gingivitis diagnosed and treated?
- Can gingivitis be prevented?
- How to practice good oral hygiene
- Some more information on gum disease
Some more information on gum disease
Preventing gingivitis in children
Your child should start having their teeth brushed when they are roughly 12 months old.
You should only use a very small, pea-sized amount of toothpaste. When the gaps between his or her teeth begin to close, then it is vital that you also start flossing.
It is best to establish an oral hygiene routine with your children so that they can grow accustomed to it. When your child is old enough and able, you should teach them how to brush and floss by themselves and monitor them daily to ensure they are doing so. Your child should visit a dentist regularly from the age of two.
As a result of the hormonal changes in the body during puberty, gingivitis can become a common occurrence. Teenagers should, therefore, be monitored on a regular basis to ensure they are following a routine of good dental hygiene. It is advised that they are taken to a dentist for oral cleaning regularly.
**My Med Memo – It is generally advised that you should attend dental cleanings and check-ups at least twice a year. However, should your dentist detect any additional risk factors or health concerns, you may have to have a professional dental cleaning more frequently.
Gum disease in pregnant women
A number of pregnant women believe that dentists should be avoided in order to ensure that their foetus is not exposed to any danger from procedures or the drugs administered during these. However, dental cleanings should not be missed. Pregnant women are still at risk of developing gingivitis, and in actual fact, their risk of developing an infection is increased due to their increase in pregnancy hormones making their gum tissue more vulnerable to an infection from bacteria. Bleeding and swollen gums can sometimes be a symptom associated with pregnancy, if this is experienced then it may be advised that pregnant women see their dentist more regularly.
How gum disease can affect an expecting mother and her child
Cases of periodontal disease during pregnancy have shown that gum disease in pregnant women may expose their foetus to a number of different risks, these risks are particularly high in those who suffer from diabetes. There are several reasons as to why gum disease may have an impact on the health of a pregnant woman and her foetus.
These include some of the following:
- Prostaglandin – Gum disease (specifically periodontitis) seems to elevate prostaglandin levels, prostaglandin is a compound that aids in inducing labour. When these levels are increased, it may result in premature labour and the delivery of a premature baby.
- CRP (C – reactive protein) – This is a marker for blood tests that checks for the presence of inflammation in the body. CRP is a substance that is produced by the liver as a result of any inflammation, the levels of this protein are measured through a blood test, higher levels of it will denote an inflammation or infection. This protein has recently been associated with pregnancy outcomes such as premature birth and preeclampsia (a condition that is characterised by high blood pressure in pregnant women which can lead to seizures and a number of other complications). If an expecting mother suffers from a gum infection (periodontal disease), this may result in her CRP levels being elevated and this can intensify her body’s inflammatory response. It is possible for the bacteria that causes periodontal infection to enter through the bloodstream and result in the liver producing CRP, thus leading to inflammation of the arteries which could result in heart attacks or strokes.
**My Med Memo – The link between gum disease and preeclampsia is still under investigation and is a largely debated topic amongst medical professionals. However, in recent studies, there have been inconclusive findings between the correlation of the two conditions and therefore, the association cannot be confirmed.
- Bacterial spread – It is possible for the bacteria that accumulates within the gum pockets to enter the bloodstream and therefore affect a number of other body parts. Thus, the infection can become systemic. Research has shown that the oral bacteria in pregnant women, as well as some associated pathogens, have colonised and accumulated within the coronary arteries and internal mammary (breast tissue) glands of some women.
Treatment for gum disease in pregnant women
Fortunately, there are a number of non-surgical and safe treatment options for expecting mothers. It is vital that the progression of the infection is halted as this will increase the mother’s chances of a healthy and safe delivery.
A dentist will begin by assessing the current state of the jawbone and gums and then proceed to make an accurate and precise diagnosis. Root planing and scaling are the more common procedures performed as they do not require surgery and are minimally invasive. These involve removing the bacteria and debris that have colonised within the gum pockets and ridding the surfaces of the teeth of plaque and tartar. Through the use of effective treatment and sound personal oral hygiene, a pregnant woman’s chances of further complications caused by gum disease are reduced by roughly 50%.
Is gum disease contagious?
The majority of factors that cause gingivitis and other gum disease are generally based on your personal health. However, some scientific evidence, although limited, has confirmed that the bacteria that cause gum disease are able to spread through saliva. Therefore, periodontal disease itself is not contagious, but the bacteria that is responsible for the infection is.
Does gum disease cause bad breath?
Halitosis (the scientific term for bad breath), is an extremely common condition that is linked to several different causes. Chronic bad breath is normally a result of gases (which often have a foul smell) being released from the bacteria that naturally coats your gums, tongue and teeth. In some cases, there are bits of food that are not brushed or flossed out from between your teeth, this leaves the food to rot and creates an unpleasant odour.
The bacteria on your gums and teeth, known as plaque, is what causes gum disease and may even lead to tooth decay. One of the most commonly seen warning signs associated with gum disease is bad breath or having an unpleasant taste in your mouth. Bad breath can be prevented or reversed through brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing on a regular basis (once a day). It is also advisable that you regularly have your teeth professionally cleaned by your dentist or an oral hygienist.
Is gum disease linked to other health issues?
Researchers and experts are still trying to determine and understand the link between systemic health issues and gum disease. Some systemic issues that have been linked to gum disease are a stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. When the bacteria that causes the plaque on teeth has been compared to the bacteria that are involved in causing heart disease, there has been evidence that suggests that there is a correlation between heart disease and gum disease. However, experts are still unable to determine the exact cause-and-effect connection between the conditions.
These kinds of connections are hard to disprove or prove, therefore, it is generally accepted that should one aim for a healthy life that is not riddled with gum disease, this may be able to assist them leading a life that is generally healthier.
Although it may be difficult to find proof that suggests that there are health problems directly linked to gum disease, what is known is that certain health issues can result in the development of gum disease. If you have any changes to your current medical condition, then it is advised that you speak to your dentist or doctor to see if there may be some effects on your oral health. Your healthy gums can quickly be threatened if your immune system or health changes or diminishes for some reason.