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Gum disease or to give it it’s medical term, Periodontitis, is an extremely common condition and we are only just realising the overall impact it has on general health. Research has now revealed links with heart disease, diabetes and Alzeimers to mention a few, and when figures show that up to 85% of the population have some form of Periodontitis, it is important to get the message out that,on the whole, this is a preventable condition.

The process of gum disease starts with a build up around the teeth of plaque this consists of debris in the mouth, precipitations from saliva, and bacteria. The initial inflammation is known as gingivitis. It then progresses to early Periodontitis where there is some destruction of the tip of the bone surrounding the root of the tooth and some of what’s known as the periodontal ligament. This ligament runs between the bone socket in your jaw and the root of your tooth. At this point the margin of gum begins to come away from the tooth forming a ‘pocket’.

If left unchecked, this will then progress to moderate and then advanced gum disease. The bone and ligament around the root of the tooth become more and more eroded, and the pocket becomes deeper. This will eventually lead to the tooth becoming loose and being lost. Periodontitis has been called the ‘silent disease’ in some quarters as there are often no warning signs such as pain, or swelling until the more advanced stages.

People often say to me if they brush twice a day and floss then surely they can’t get gum disease. Every one is different but the vast majority of us will develop Periodontitis if we just rely on our home care. A visit to the dentist or hygienist for a comprehensive check and ‘scale and polish’ can not only prevent problems with the gums, but also prevent cavities and make fillings, crowns, bridgework and dental implants last even longer. An effective scale and polish should effectively provide a full mouth disinfection and should take around 30 minutes. This is usually available under a private basis, and not under the NHS.

If you are about embark on any dental treatments such as implants, teeth whitening or braces such as Invisalign, it is imperative that the gums are healthy. Dental implants can get gum disease just like teeth, and it can be more difficult to treat. In addition unhealthy gums can lead to complications if teeth are moved with any form of brace. This includes the popular clear brace systems, Invisalign being the most well known of these.

How susceptible we are to this condition does vary considerably. Some people will need hygiene visits every 6 weeks and some only annually. Hopefully I have explained how important it is to visit your dentist to check for gum disease, not only for your mouth but also for your overall health as well.

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