Steven R. Uretsky, DMD
Steven R. Uretsky, DMD
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I tell if I have gingivitis or periodontitis (gum disease)?
Four out of five people have periodontal disease and don’t know it! Most people are not aware of it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages. Unlike tooth decay, which often causes discomfort, it is possible to have periodontal disease without noticeable symptoms. Having regular dental check-ups and periodontal examinations are very important and will help detect if periodontal problems exist. Periodontal disease begins when plaque, a sticky, colorless, film of bacteria, food debris, and saliva, is left on the teeth and gums. The bacteria produce toxins (acids) that inflame the gums and slowly destroy the bone. Brushing and flossing regularly and properly will ensure that plaque is not left behind to do its damage. Other than poor oral hygiene, there are several other factors that may increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:
•Smoking or chewing tobacco – Tobacco users are more likely than nonusers to form plaque and tartar on their teeth.
•Certain tooth or appliance conditions – Bridges that no longer fit properly, crowded teeth, or defective fillings that may trap plaque and bacteria.
•Many medications – Steroids, cancer therapy drugs, blood pressure meds, oral contraceptives. Some medications have side affects that reduce saliva, making the mouth dry and plaque easier to adhere to the teeth and gums.
•Pregnancy, oral contraceptives, and puberty – Can cause changes in hormone levels, causing gum tissue to become more sensitive to bacteria toxins.
•Systemic diseases – Diabetes, blood cell disorders, HIV / AIDS, etc.
•Genetics may play role – Some patients may be predisposed to a more aggressive type of periodontitis. Patients with a family history of tooth loss should pay particular attention to their gums.
How often should I have a dental exam and cleaning?
You should have your teeth checked and cleaned at least twice a year, though your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend more frequent visits.
Regular dental exams and cleaning visits are essential in preventing dental problems and maintaining the health of your teeth and gums. At these visits, your teeth are cleaned and checked for cavities. Additionally, there are many other things that are checked and monitored to help detect, prevent, and maintain your dental health. These include:
•Medical history review: Knowing the status of any current medical conditions, new medications, and illnesses, gives us insight to your overall health and also your dental health.
•Examination of diagnostic x-rays (radiographs): Essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
•Oral cancer screening: Check the face, neck, lips, tongue, throat, tissues, and gums for any signs of oral cancer.
•Gum disease evaluation: Check the gums and bone around the teeth for any signs of periodontal disease.
•Examination of tooth decay: All tooth surfaces will be checked for decay with special dental instruments.
•Examination of existing restorations: Check current fillings, crowns, etc.
•Removal of calculus (tartar): Calculus is hardened plaque that has been left on the tooth for sometime and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line, and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
•Removal of plaque: Plaque is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva. The bacteria produce toxins (poisons) that inflame the gums. This inflammation is the start of periodontal disease!
•Teeth polishing: Removes stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during toothbrushing and scaling.
•Oral hygiene recommendations: Review and recommend oral hygiene aids as needed (electric dental toothbrushes, special cleaning aids, fluorides, rinses, etc.).
•Review dietary habits: Your eating habits play a very important role in your dental health.
As you can see, a good dental exam and cleaning involves quite a lot more than just checking for cavities and polishing your teeth. We are committed to providing you with the best possible care, and to do so will require regular check-ups and cleanings.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease?
•Red and puffy gums – Gums should never be red or swollen.
•Bleeding gums – Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
•Persistent bad breath – Caused by bacteria in the mouth.
•New spacing between teeth – Caused by bone loss.
•Loose teeth – Also caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (fibers that support the tooth to the bone).
•Pus around the teeth and gums – Sign that there is an infection present.
•Receding gums – Loss of gum around a tooth.
•Tenderness or Discomfort – Plaque, calculus, and bacteria irritate the gums and teeth.
Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.