Dental Health

    Definition

    Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. In the worst cases, teeth are lost.

    In May 2000, the first-ever Surgeon General’s report on oral health, Oral Health in America, called attention to the “silent epidemic” of dental and oral diseases that burdens millions of children and adults throughout the United States, especially economically-stressed, minority communities.

    In the report, the Surgeon General addressed the importance of building a science and evidence-base to improve oral health, building the infrastructure to address oral health, removing barriers to oral health services, and developing public-private partnerships to address disparities in oral health, particularly in the Black community.

    Oral health is essential to overall general health and well-being, but there is also a growing recognition that many challenges identified 20 years ago have not been adequately addressed. Dental caries (tooth decay) is the single most common chronic childhood disease. There are striking disparities in oral diseases among various disadvantaged and underserved population subgroups. Approximately one-third of the U.S. population has no access to community water fluoridation.

    Causes

    Our mouths are full of bacteria. These bacteria, along with mucus and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colorless “plaque” on teeth. Brushing and flossing help get rid of plaque.  Plaque that is not removed can harden and form “tartar” that brushing doesn’t clean.  Only a professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar.

    Symptoms

    Symptoms of gum disease include:

    •    Bad breath that won’t go away
    •    Red or swollen gums
    •    Tender or bleeding gums
    •    Painful chewing
    •    Loose teeth
    •    Sensitive teeth
    •    Receding gums or longer appearing teeth

    Exams and Tests

    Any of these symptoms may be a sign of a serious problem, which should be checked by a dentist.  At your dental visit the dentist or hygienist should:

    •    Ask about your medical history to identify underlying conditions or risk factors (such as smoking) that may contribute to gum disease.
    •    Examine your gums and note any signs of inflammation.
    •    Use a tiny ruler called a ‘probe’ to check for and measure any pockets.  In a healthy mouth, the depth of these pockets is usually between 1 and 3 millimeters. This test for pocket depth is usually painless.

    The dentist or hygienist may also:

    •    Take an x-ray to see whether there is any bone loss.
    •    Refer you to a periodontist.  Periodontists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease and may provide you with treatment options that are not offered by your dentist.

    Treatments

    The main goal of treatment is to control the infection.  The number and types of treatment will vary, depending on the extent of the gum disease.  Any type of treatment requires that the patient keep up good daily care at home. The doctor may also suggest changing certain behaviors, such as quitting smoking, as a way to improve treatment outcome.

    Deep Cleaning (Scaling and Root Planing)

    The dentist, periodontist, or dental hygienist removes the plaque through a deep-cleaning method called scaling and root planing.  Scaling means scraping off the tartar from above and below the gum line.  Root planing gets rid of rough spots on the tooth root where the germs gather, and helps remove bacteria that contribute to the disease.  In some cases a laser may be used to remove plaque and tartar. This procedure can result in less bleeding, swelling, and discomfort compared to traditional deep cleaning methods.

    Medications

    Medications may be used with treatment that includes scaling and root planing, but they cannot always take the place of surgery. Depending on how far the disease has progressed, the dentist or periodontist may still suggest surgical treatment. Long-term studies are needed to find out if using medications reduces the need for surgery and whether they are effective over a long period of time.

    Possible Complications

    In some studies, researchers have observed that people with gum disease (when compared to people without gum disease) were more likely to develop heart disease or have difficulty controlling blood sugar.  Other studies showed that women with gum disease were more likely than those with healthy gums to deliver preterm, low birth weight babies.  But so far, it is not been determined whether gum disease is the cause of these conditions.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    The following problems require urgent attention by a dentist or a hospital’s Emergency Department:
    •    Tooth knocked out
    •    Broken or chipped tooth
    •    Tooth knocked out of position or alignment
    •    Lacerations
    •    Toothache or tooth pain: You may have a cavity or dental abscess (pocket of infection) in or around a tooth.
    •    Gum swelling or redness
    •    Jaw pain

    Preventions

    Avoid tooth and gum problems by doing the following:

    •    Brush your teeth twice a day (with a fluoride toothpaste).
    •    Floss regularly to remove plaque from between teeth. Or use a device such as a special brush or wooden or plastic pick recommended by a dental professional.
    •    Visit the dentist routinely for a check-up and professional cleaning.
    •    Don’t smoke

    Natural Remedies

    (BlackDoctor.org) — Healthy gums can lead to more smiles and fewer visits to the dentist. Beat the bacteria that cause swollen gums and bad breath. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful:

    What You Need To Know:

    • Overhaul your hygiene habits
      To kick gingivitis and prevent recurrences, brush and floss frequently, and get regular cleanings from a dental professional
    • Rinse with a folic acid solution
      Use 5 ml twice a day of a 0.1% solution to reduce inflammation and bleeding
    • Get some extra C
      For better overall gum health, take 300 mg of vitamin C a day, plus 300 mg of flavonoids, especially if your diet is low in fruits and vegetables
    • Discover CoQ10
      Reduce gingivitis symptoms and repair damaged gum tissues by taking 50 to 60 mg a day of coenzyme Q10, a powerful antioxidant
    • Try a natural product
      Check out toothpaste or mouthwash containing sage oil, peppermint oil, chamomile tincture, expressed juice from echinacea, and myrrh tincture to treat and prevent gingivitis

    These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading the full gingivitis article for more in-depth, fully-referenced information on medicines, vitamins, herbs, and dietary and lifestyle changes that may be helpful.

     

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