We all know that poor oral health at home and not seeing your dental hygienist regularly can cause:
- Persistent bad breath
- Tooth discolouration
- Tooth loss
- Jawbone and gum disease
But did you know that the bacteria found hiding under your gums has now been directly related to:
- Heart disease
- Low birth weight for babies
- Difficulty conceiving
- Immune stress
With so much scientific evidence proving the health of your mouth and gums affects your physical wellbeing, we like to encourage our patients to actively maintain their oral health.
Although genetics, diet and environment can play a role in the state of your gum health, the major contributors are your dentist, your hygienist and YOU.
How Gum Health Can Affect Your Overall Health
We would like to explain a few new scientific facts about how your gums can affect your health and what you can do to be involved in actively maintaining your gum health and smile.
It is important to understand that the bacteria a lot of the population have hiding under their gums causes the same problems any other nasty bacterial colonies can create in the rest of the body. For example, serious cardiac issues can arise if that bacteria hiding under your gums is let loose in the blood stream, as all blood circulates through the heart.
What You Need to Know about Dental Hygiene Plaque
Did you know that plaque can start to form as early as 20 minutes after eating? Plaque is a soft sticky film containing approximately 1000 different types of bacteria. Even when removed with dental floss and tooth brushing, it will reappear approximately every 4 to 12 hours.
If left on the surface of a tooth due to ineffective oral hygiene, plaque will start to harden within 48 hours, helped along by calcium salt deposits found in saliva. Some of the common types of bacteria found in plaque are Streptococcus, Neisseria, Veillonella and Actinomyces.
Gingivitis is the very early stage of gum disease and it’s the most common cause of bleeding when brushing your teeth.
When plaque is left to sit on the surface of the teeth without proper removal every 12 hours, the first response the body produces is inflammation. Unfortunately, when the inflamed gum in the area is brushed, it will easily bleed.
Thankfully, gingivitis can be easily corrected. It generally takes three days of poor oral hygiene for gingivitis to start but it can take just three days of good oral hygiene to repair. While it is often thought that not brushing the area will help the bleeding stop, it is, in fact, the opposite that will reverse the inflammation of the gum. The bacteria must be removed for the cycle to correct itself, so good circular motions of brushing 2 to 3 times a day and a correct flossing technique will reverse gingivitis.
If the bleeding does not stop after 3 days, we recommend you contact the practice.
Calculus also known as tartar, is the next stage in the cycle of dental plaque and is the main contributor to gum disease.
When dental plaque is left on the teeth for a significant length of time, and the bleeding gums of gingivitis is ignored, the sticky biofilm will mix with the calcium salts in your saliva and start to harden. Bacteria love anything they can adhere to and the stickiness of plaque provides a perfect growing platform.
Calculus is white to begin with, but will soon age and change colour to yellow, and if left for too long it will turn black. When it is white in colour, some patients mistake the calculus for their own teeth and if a piece comes loose in the mouth, it is not uncommon for them to think they have chipped tooth enamel.
Calculus is too hard to be removed with a toothbrush and will need to be safely removed by a dentist or dental hygienist. If calculus has sat on the tooth’s surface for a lengthy period of time, it will demineralise the enamel and can create sensitivity when removed. We recommend patients have a fluoride treatment after having their teeth cleaned, to minimise sensitivity and help remineralise the affected areas.
Periodontal disease is also known as gum disease. At Applecross, we prefer to call this condition ‘jawbone disease’, as it gives patients a true sense of what they may be suffering from or trying to avoid.
When bacterial deposits are left to harden on tooth enamel or under the gums for 3 to 6 months, bacteria numbers will proliferate in the environment underneath your gums where it is warm, moist and dark. Your periodontal ligament (the support holding your tooth root in your jaw) soon starts to pull away from the tooth root due to an immune driven inflammatory process. This soon creates periodontal pockets running down the tooth root, hidden from sight. Although they cannot be seen, some periodontal pockets can be up to 10-12mm deep. They are full of bacteria
A periodontal pocket is a naturally occurring area just underneath the gum line where the gum is not actually attached to the tooth. In a healthy patient, these pockets can be anywhere from 1 to 2mm deep. When bacteria are allowed to sit and harden on the surface of the tooth (calculus), they easily make their way inside the pocket and proliferate in the warm, wet and dark environment that is provided.
This bacterial colony soon establishes itself and works with the calcium in your saliva to produce even more calculus. It is not uncommon for patients to have the visibly hardened calculus removed from their teeth, not knowing there is still calculus hiding well under the gum line – sometimes up to 10mm under the gum line! When bacteria enter the pocket, the only way of removing the bacterial colony is with a dental instrument used by your dentist or dental hygienist.
While this infection is active under the gum line, it will continue to eat the bone away. Your body’s immune Response will separate the gum from the infection stuck to your tooth roots, opening up the pockets even further. Eventually, if the pockets grow to the same length as your tooth root, the tooth will become mobile and require extraction.
Thankfully, when a dentist or hygienist is able to properly remove these deposits, the pockets are able to start to close within a week. Your immune system is finally able to slow the inflammatory response that caused the pockets to open up in the first place. If the pockets are able to close up, it is not as easy for bacteria to travel down them.
It is also important to remember that bacteria will build up sufficient numbers again within 3 to 4 months until it is under control. This is the reason why some patients need to return to the dentist every 3 to 4 months for their next clean, instead of every 6 months. Once the periodontal infection of these pockets is managed, there is no reason why 6 monthly cleans cannot be aspired to.
• Periodontal Pockets
How to Prevent Bacterial Growth
Essentially, the best way to prevent plaque bacteria from adhering to your teeth right from the start is to make sure the enamel surface is kept smooth.
Plaque finds it very difficult to stick to a smooth surface and when it does, it is very easily brushed and flossed away. Rough calculus, however, provides the perfect environment for bacteria to nestle into and start its proliferation.
To keep your teeth smooth and clean, a professional dental clean is the best way to go. There are 2 types of dental clean that may be recommended for you:
Scale and Clean
Patients often refer to professional dental cleans as a ‘scale and polish ’or ‘scrape and clean.’
During this treatment, your dentist or dental hygienist will remove minimal amounts of debris from around the gum, usually limited to the areas above the gum line. It is a treatment that is performed on average every 3 to 6 months. To use an analogy, it is like washing the outside of your car every 2 to 4 weeks and it is easy to do quickly and hence cheaply. Generally, one of these will take about 40 minutes for our hygienist to do.
Root Planing Clean
This technique is a more advanced professional dental clean, involving major removal of calculus and bacteria from both above and below the gum line.
This treatment will be recommended for patients who have moderate or advanced periodontal disease, or when there has not been any type of gum maintenance cleans performed for a long period. An analogy of this is having a car detailed when it has not been washed or cleaned for years and the car has been taken off-road. This will take a significant amount of time and will also cost substantially more.
Patients needing root planing may need anywhere from 2 to 4 visits, of 60 to 90 minutes each. In some cases, patients may be referred to a gum specialist (periodontist) for the management of their disease. Your dentist or periodontist may also take measurements of the gums to provide a baseline reading of their initial condition and compare how things look in the future.
By making sure you have regular Active Maintenance Dental Cleans, you’ll not only prevent disease but reduce the cost of future cleans or treatments. Book in for your professional dental clean today – simply contact us online or call 9316 0555. Our friendly Applecross dental team will arrange your consultation.