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There are two questions I hear on a daily basis from my patients, “How do I keep my teeth?” and “What can I do to ensure lifelong healthy gums?”.

flossing-208x300As their dental hygienist, my first goal is to remind them that there are two levels of gum disease, gingivitis and periodontal disease, and secondly to educate them about both types. If you really do want to “keep your teeth”, I suggest you learn the impact of these conditions and pay attention to your changing body (and the usual…. brush, and floss, and visit your dentist frequently).

The simplest way to understand the two types of gum diseases is remembering that:

  • Gingivitis (level 1): is detected by the presence of “red”—red, swollen gums, or worse, blood.
  • Periodontal Disease (level 2): means the breakdown of bone which results in tooth loss.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the differences between Gingivitis & Periodontal Disease

As most of us are not the best at flossing on an everyday basis, gingivitis can go unnoticed by the patient. Hence, it is important to have your teeth professionally cleaned by a dental hygienist (like me) on a routine basis, at the very least twice a year. As a dental hygienist, we are trained to target in on the health of your gums, to spot gingivitis (if present) immediately, and to treat it before it complicates to periodontal disease. The main difference between gingivitis and periodontal disease is that if caught early, gingivitis can be reversed. When gingivitis is not diagnosed in time, the swollen gums will start to detach from the teeth and cause bacteria to penetrate further below the natural gum line resulting in the bone to breakdown. The process of bone breaking down is classified as periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. Usually, there is no pain associated with gum disease but one of the first signs of it is bad breath and/or a sour taste in your mouth. The earlier gum disease is diagnosed and properly treated by your dental hygienist, the better the chance in keeping your teeth.

So you may wonder, why do we need to be aware of this?

Well, periodontal disease has been shown to be strongly associated with several other diseases. It is extremely important for your dental care team and you to be attentive to your gums as they can be forewarning us of other issues present in the body. On the same note, when other diseases (i.e., diabetes mellitus) are present, closely monitoring the gums is essential to prevent further complications. When inflammation and bacteria exist anywhere in the body, we are not to take the situation lightly!

A few dental thoughts for you to take home:

  • OSTEOPOROSIS is linked to bone loss in the jaw and can lead to tooth loss.
  • RESPIRATORY DISEASES, such as pneumonia, have been linked to a bacteria that grows in our mouths when periodontal disease is present
  • CANCER, especially in men with gum disease, becomes a concern as 49% of men are more likely to develop renal (kidney) cancer, 54% are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, and 30% are more likely to develop blood cancers due to the traveling bacteria in blood.
  • DIABETES causes more susceptibility to periodontal disease.
  • HEART DISEASE/STROKES are more prone in people with periodontal disease.

As you just read, much of what happens in your body can have a correlation with your dental hygiene. Are you ready to book your next appointment yet?

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