Oral Care:Gum/Periodontal Disease
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Overview
Maintaining good oral health is essential to one’s overall health. In general, the goals of proper oral hygiene are to remove or prevent plaque and tartar formation and buildup, prevent dental caries and periodontal disease, and decrease the incidence of halitosis. Results from various clinical studies have concluded that poor oral hygiene is linked directly to an increased incidence of dental caries, periodontal disease, halitosis, oral pain, and discomfort for denture wearers. Some clinical studies suggest that gum disease may also increase an individual’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease or stroke and may contribute to other health issues.

Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is the mildest form of periodontal disease. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to a more serious and irreversible form of gum disease called periodontitis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 65 million Americans have some degree of periodontal disease.

Signs and Symptoms
While signs and symptoms of periodontal disease vary from person to person, the following are common among many affected patients:
  • Bleeding gums during and after brushing teeth
  • Tender, red, swollen gums
  • Mouth sores
  • Persistent halitosis
  • Pain when chewing
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • Receding gums
  • Formation of deep pockets between teeth and gums
  • Changes in the way dentures fit

Cause/Common Triggers
Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in dental plaque. A number of factors can cause or contribute to periodontal disease:
  • Poor oral hygiene habits
  • Genetic predisposition to dental issues
  • Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause
  • Smoking
  • Misaligned or crowded teeth
  • Use of certain medications, such as phenytoin, nifedipine, or cyclosporine
  • Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, and HIV
  • Poor nutrition

Tests and Diagnosis
Your dentist will examine the condition of your teeth and gums to determine whether you have periodontal disease. He or she will also look for plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth. If periodontal disease is found, your dentist may take x-rays to determine whether it has spread to the supporting bone structures of your teeth.

Prevention
To prevent periodontal disease, the American Academy of Periodontology recommends establishing a good oral hygiene routine, which includes brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, and receiving professional dental care at least twice a year.

Management
Gingivitis can be managed and even reversed with daily brushing, flossing, and routine dental cleanings. In addition to maintaining proper oral hygiene, you can use a mouth rinse that prevents plaque and tartar buildup. Electric toothbrushes are helpful because they are more effective at removing plaque and tartar than manual toothbrushes. If the gum disease has progressed to periodontitis, you should adhere to the treatment plan your dentist has recommended, maintain a daily oral care routine, and get regular professional dental care.

Treatment and Care
The goals in treating periodontal disease are to decrease inflammation and prevent further dental issues. Treatment is based on the severity and form of gum disease. Antibiotics are sometimes prescribed, and periodontal surgery may be needed. Your doctor will determine the best treatment for your individual needs.

Homeopathic and Alternative Remedies
Although clinical data on the effectiveness of alternative therapies in treating periodontal disease are limited, some individuals elect to use alternative therapies. Your health care provider may recommend the following alternative therapies:
  • Natural herbal supplements or teas, such as rosemary, ginger, turmeric, and cumin
  • Vitamin/mineral supplements, such as zinc, folic acid, and vitamins C and D
  • Proper oral hygiene

Self-Care
A host of nonprescription dental care products are marketed for the prevention of common oral health problems. These products are available in various formulations of dentifrices, including antiplaque/antigingivitis, tartar control, and sensitivity toothpastes, whitening products, flossing products, topical fluoride products, and cosmetic and therapeutic antiseptic mouth rinses. Various products are also marketed to meet the dental needs of children; these products encourage and aid in improving brushing techniques. In addition, plaque removal devices, such as manual and electric toothbrushes, dental flossers, and oral irrigating devices, are commonly used and recommended for plaque removal.

Resources:
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