Looking after your oral health is an important step in taking care of your overall health. The relationship between oral health and overall health is intricately linked. When you take care of your oral health; you are also reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimers disease and oral cancer.

In this column, we will discuss the silent yet rampant disease that affects thousands of Bahamians. When gum disease hurts it may be too late.

Periodontal disease affects nearly 75 percent of adults. The majority of adults are completely unaware that they have the disease. It is important to understand the symptoms and causes of this disease to better understand how to treat and prevent it from damaging your health.

Periodontal Disease is caused by bacterial plaque. If the plaque remains the bacteria builds up, damages your teeth and infect your gums. The bone that supports your teeth is destroyed to the point where there is recession, shaky teeth and eventual tooth loss. The disease goes through three stages: gingivitis, periodontitis and advanced periodontitis. Therefore, each stage is more damaging to your oral health the longer it goes untreated.

The scientific terminologies for gum diseases are called Gingivitis and Periodontitis.

Gingivitis is a mild swelling with bleeding around the gums; however, there is no bone loss. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of the disease and therefore reversible.

Periodontitis, on the other hand results in loss of bone support around your teeth. Despite the hundreds of products advertised none claim to arrest periodontitis. Since such a large segment of our population suffer from periodontitis (bone loss), it is therefore critical that a skilled dentist or registered dental hygienist manage your oral health.

What are the leading causes and risk factors for periodontitis?

  1. Bacterial plaque
  2. Genetics
  3. Smoking

Bacterial Plaque: Plaque is bacteria that colonizes on your teeth and around your gum line. It forms as a sticky film of millions of bugs forming a colony. It feeds on other bacteria, sugar and their waste.

A Periodontist is able to remove the build-up of these bugs with special treatment. If it not removed in a timely fashion, the plaque hardens on the root surface below the gum line. The hardened plaque is called calculus. Calculus is rough therefore collects more plaque. The calculus has to be mechanically removed by a process called scaling and root planing. If the dentist does not correct this, the pockets cannot heal. When this happens, the pockets remain septic, easily bleeds and sometimes develop pus in the form of an abscess.

Genetic Factors: A family history of periodontal disease and diabetes make you more prone to getting gum disease.

Smoking: Smoking is a well-established risk factor for periodontal disease. Smoking changes the colony of the germs making them more aggressive, causing considerable damage to your cells. Also, your immune system becomes compromised thereby making you more susceptible to further bone loss. Further, the toxic compounds in the smoke damages your oral tissues and dampens the normal inflammatory response.

In summary, gingivitis is reversible with consistent cleanings (at least 2 times per year) and adequate oral hygiene home care practices. Periodontitis, on the other hand; requires the assistance of a Periodontist or skilled dentist/hygienist. Proper treatment can control periodontitis and you can keep your teeth for a lifetime. A healthy mouth is the first step toward a healthy body.

 Dr. Kendal V. O. Major is Founder and CEO of Center for Specialized Dentistry which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in Nassau and Freeport. He is the first Bahamian Specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He also is a certified Fastbraces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, Nassau at (242)325-5165 or [email protected].



Generalized Advanced Periodontitis

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