Arm yourself with the basic facts about periodontal disease and how to prevent it.
If we’re honest, most of us have probably been told by our dentist that we need to floss more regularly. Flossing is seen as so time-consuming and tedious that only 30% of Americans report that they floss daily. Regardless, brushing your teeth simply can’t clean every part of your teeth—about 40% of each tooth’s surface is only reachable with floss—so flossing is vital to preventing periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is an infection of your gums caused by bacteria; in more severe stages of the disease, the bacteria makes its way underneath the gum line and begins attacking your teeth’s supporting structures, making it the leading cause of tooth loss in America. Bacteria can also make their way into your bloodstream, causing a number of long-term health problems throughout your body if you don’t get treatment for the infection.
Despite the huge impact that periodontal disease can have on your life, there are a lot of myths out there about it—which can make it even harder to learn what you can do to protect or heal your gums. Here’s the truth behind just a few of the most common myths we’ve heard about periodontal disease.
1. There’s no wrong way to floss.
Flossing sounds simple, but there’s a right and a wrong way to do it—just like it’s possible to harm your teeth with over-brushing, you can floss too hard and irritate your gums. Flossing shouldn’t hurt or cause your gums to bleed if you do it regularly. When you first start flossing regularly, your gums may bleed, but they’ll stop a week or two after you begin flossing at least once a day. If your gums are still bleeding despite regular flossing, you may be jamming the floss into your gums with too much force. When you floss, use firm but gentle pressure to push the thread between your teeth and slide it up and down several times on the side of each tooth. If your gums still bleed after a week or two, you should schedule an appointment with Dr. Miedema.
2. I’d know if I had gum disease.
While it might seem that a destructive infection like gum disease would be obvious, it can easily fly under the radar—many people aren’t aware they even have it! This is because periodontal disease is usually painless until it’s very advanced, at which point you might find yourself suddenly searching desperately for an emergency dentist. There are a few signs you can look for, such as your gums darkening in color, becoming swollen or tender, bleeding easily, and noticing consistently bad breath. All of these symptoms are easily missed or explained away, so they’re often overlooked until it’s more serious.
As it progresses, symptoms can develop into gums that are receding, forming deep pockets, or leaking pus, as well as teeth that feel loose or are shifting in your mouth. These last symptoms are more obvious, but they don’t appear until gum disease is advanced and requires more intense treatment. If you notice these symptoms, including minor symptoms that persist after a week or two of careful flossing, schedule an appointment with Dr. Miedema to determine the cause and potential treatment options.
3. Good oral hygiene will cure my periodontal disease.
There’s some truth to this myth since great oral hygiene can resolve minor gum disease, called gingivitis. Even gingivitis may require a little extra help, though, such as antibiotics or specialized mouthwash. Periodontitis, which is more serious, can’t be solved this easily because the bacteria is below the gum line. Floss can’t penetrate this deep, so periodontitis requires specialized treatments to thoroughly eradicate the deeply rooted bacteria. Thankfully, modern technology and procedures provide many different treatment options for you to choose from.
4. Poor oral hygiene is the only cause of gum disease.
While poor oral hygiene is definitely a major cause of periodontal disease, many different factors can increase your risk of getting it; risk factors include tobacco use, diet, stress, systemic illnesses like diabetes or autoimmune diseases, certain medications, and even your age. If you have one or more of these risk factors, you might find that you have a hard time keeping gum disease under control—even with a dedicated and thorough oral hygiene routine. Struggling with periodontal disease doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing something wrong, but Dr. Miedema can offer ideas to improve your gum health. For example, you may want to consider making a few lifestyle changes or using a mouthwash that’s designed to help prevent gingivitis.
You may also want to try our periodontal maintenance program, which focuses on providing specialized care with the goal of preventing a recurrence of gum disease. In addition to emphasizing great care at home, Dr. Miedema may recommend that you come in for an evaluation more often than the usual six months; this prevents plaque from building up at your gum line and causing another case of periodontitis.
5. Treatments for periodontal disease are painful and scary.
We won’t pretend that getting treated for periodontitis is enjoyable, but it’s certainly not painful or scary. Dentists who perform treatments for periodontal disease attend extra schooling to earn their qualifications, so they’re highly trained for the job. Additionally, advances in technology mean that dental treatments are easier, more effective, and more comfortable than ever.
Dr. Miedema uses the Hu Freidy Air Polisher system to treat periodontitis; this cutting-edge equipment safely and easily cleans bacteria and biofilm from beneath your gum line. It’s versatile enough to effectively but gently clean soft tissue, enamel, the roots of your teeth, and restorations like implants—all while managing to be more comfortable than other air polishers. This creates a better overall experience for you, keeping you more comfortable and pain-free.
As an added plus, you’ll likely feel more relaxed knowing that your family dentist, Dr. Miedema, is performing the procedure; it’s always easier when you know and trust the dentist who’s treating you. If you’re still struggling with anxiety before your treatment, however, let Dr. Miedema know so that she can take steps to help reduce your anxiety.
Although there are a lot of myths out there about periodontal disease, doing a little research to find the truth is definitely worth it. Knowing how to protect yourself against gum disease and understanding which cutting-edge treatments are available to you make all the difference to your oral health. If you have any questions about periodontal disease or are looking for a Buxton dentist with both the skills and advanced technology to help your gums get healthy again, feel free to call and set up a consultation at any time.