Are you putting off going to the dentist even though it’s been a long time since your last check up and cleaning? Has your tooth or gum been bothering you lately? It’s possible that you are experiencing a minor sensitivity that could easily be treated, or maybe it has the potential to get worse. Neglecting your teeth could end up costing you a lot more time, energy, and money, but most importantly, it is detrimental to you and your family’s health. New research shows that cavity is contagious. Just like any other infections, Streptococcus mutans, could spread from adults to children.
Did you know that many cavities don’t hurt? Cavities typically don’t cause any pain until they invade the nerve inside the tooth. By the time a tooth starts throbbing, it is likely that the cavity has infiltrated the pulp. At this point, the only way to save the tooth would be by doing a root canal and a crown. At our practice, we believe that prevention is the best treatment in dentistry. Only a dentist could diagnose cavities before they get too big. To avoid extensive dental treatments, it is important that you visit the dentist every six months for a check up and cleaning. Think of it as a quick oil change for your car. If you neglect to care for your car’s engine, it could cause some big issues in the future. The same applies to your teeth. By the time the cavity goes into the nerve and starts hurting, a simple filling will not fix the problem. A small cavity may easily be replaced with a tooth colored filling in one very short dental visit, but if this cavity goes into the nerve, then a root canal and a crown would be needed, and in the worst case scenario, extraction may be necessary.
Gingivitis is another very common dental disease. It is alarming that more than 75% of American adults have some form of gum disease but most are unaware of it. Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gum due to plaque and tartar build up. One could think of plaque and tartar as a matrix full of bacteria. The gum reacts to the bacteria by triggering the body’s defense mechanism. It is an inflammatory response similar to when you get a scrape on the skin. However, in the case of gingivitis, it is painless. If the plaque and tartar are not removed, the gum will remain chronically inflamed. Additionally, although gingivitis doesn’t directly cause bad breath, it could be a contributing factor to a condition called halitosis which is a dental term for “bad breath”.
If gingivitis is left untreated for a long time, it will progress to a more advanced gum disease called periodontitis. The good new is that gingivitis is treatable by maintaining good oral hygiene, and by receiving the proper dental treatment and cleaning at the dentist.
The gums, ligaments, and bone around the teeth form the foundation for the teeth, and are referred to as the periodontium. When the periodontium is not healthy, it jeopardizes the teeth just as a bad foundation would threaten the stability of a house. Regina M. Benjamin, a former Surgeon General called periodontitis the “silent epidemic.” Periodontal disease often causes no symptoms, especially in its earlier stages. This silent disease can still damage the gums, bone, and other tissue that surround the teeth, leading to loss. There is also evidence that the bacteria that cause periodontal disease are linked to more general health problems. These include heart disease, pregnancy complications, cancer, pneumonia, and other serious conditions.
Special deep dental cleanings, medications, and surgery are among the treatments for this disease. If periodontal disease is caught early, our dentist may be able to reverse some or all of the damage. In severe cases, we may refer you to a periodontist for treatment. You will need to commit to taking very good care of your teeth at home, and you may also need a maintenance dental visits to prevent the advancement of periodontitis.
Teeth are held in place by surrounding gums, bones and other tissue. Dental plaque, a sticky coating of bacteria that forms on teeth and at the gumline, is the main threat to teeth and their supporting tissues. If this plaque isn’t kept under control, over time it will lead to periodontal disease. Dental plaque forms constantly, collecting in the grooves of the teeth, between teeth, at the gumline, and below it. If not removed with brushing and flossing, plaque hardens into tartar (also called calculus). Tartar can be removed only with a professional cleaning. The disease starts when tartar and bacteria under the gumline lead to infection. As the body fights the infection, the gums become inflamed. Pockets form between the tooth and gum, making plaque harder to remove. As the disease advances, bone damage occurs and can lead to tooth loss.
This is the mildest form of periodontal disease. The gum becomes inflamed. The space between gum and tooth deepens, forming a pocket. Gums may be red and swollen, or may bleed when probed, or there may be no symptoms. Gingivitis can often be reversed with dental cleanings and regular brushing and flossing. Left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis.
With periodontitis, infection and inflammation spread to the bone supporting the teeth, and the gums may recede. Pockets deepen and can be impossible to keep clean. Redness, swelling, and bleeding may develop. Bacteria multiply and a destructive cycle begins to destroy the bone.
As periodontitis advances, pockets deepen even more and can fill with pus. Around the roots of the teeth, the gums may start to swell. Bone loss continues. The teeth may feel sensitive to heat or cold when brushed. Eventually, teeth become loose and may even shift slightly, due to loss of supportive bone and ligament. In some cases, teeth may need to be removed to keep periodontal disease from spreading.