Periodontal Disease: Protect Your Pearly Whites

Perodontal diseaseSay CHEESE! 

Have you ever watched movies that are set in the future?  Did you notice that the writers always show characters and extras with teeth and gums that are black and decayed?  As a dentist, the mouth is the first thing I notice when I see these futuristic movies.   I often wonder why the writers believe that dental health in the future will be just as bad as it has been in the past. It lets me know that  dental disease  is accepted as being part of the general population and will always be accepted as normal.  It doesn’t have to be that way, but we see it every day. How about those notorious news television interviews where the person being interviewed has three front teeth missing.  Do you ever wonder how they lost their teeth? I know that most of these cases involves a disease that destroys the bone and teeth in your mouth. It’s called periodontal disease. It’s most noticeable effects is what it can do to damage your gorgeous smile but there’ s so much more.

Periodontal Disease is a disease of the gingiva (gums) and bone underneath the gingiva. It is the number one cause of tooth loss in America. It is called the silent disease because it doesn’t hurt until it gets into the severe stages. The disease is caused by bacteria, plaque, and calculus that builds up around the teeth and gums because of inconsistency with flossing and brushing. The bacteria expel their toxins into the surrounding tissues, and the body responds to these toxins by sending white blood cells, antibodies and enzymes via the blood to remove these foreign substances. The problem is that the enzymes are not strong enough to remove the calculus and the plaque. So, if you don’t got to the dentist and have it removed and improve your dental habits this bacteria now has a permanent home to continue spewing their toxins into your gums.Your body’s enzymes constantly float around in your blood system, as long as the calculus is there. Your gums at some point become swollen and begin to bleed easily because now your body is working overtime to try and remove the calculus. The mouth also begins to smell from the bacteria releasing their gases into your mouth causing halitosis (bad breath). There are so many enzymes that are designed to kill bacteria and remove foreign objects, floating in your gums, that you begin to lose bone around your teeth.You lose bone because the enzymes now start eating away at your bone which is softer than the hard calculus. The mouth at this point becomes painful and can develop pus and abscesses. If the disease is not addressed, you lose enough bone and your teeth begin to loosen and can eventually fall out.

Risk factors to getting gum disease are smoking, hormonal changes, diabetes, AIDS, medications and genetics. People don’t usually show signs of gum disease until they are in their 30’s or 40’s. Men are more likely to get it than women. It is rare for teenagers to develop the disease, but they can form a milder form called gingivitis. Gingivitis, if treated is reversible.  Once you develop gum disease, there is no cure, but it can be managed with dental visits and good home care.

The signs and symptoms of having periodontal disease are:

  • Bad breath that won’t go away
  • Red and swollen gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Receding gums
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Teeth that appear to be longer than others

If any of these sound familiar please schedule an appointment with your dentist right away. Gum disease can be treated by visiting your dentist to first receive an examination and xrays to determine what stage you are in. Treatment will involve scaling and root planning to remove plaque and calculus. The gum tissues are also flushed with medicated rinses to kill bacteria. The disease will be reevaluated to determine if the periodontal disease needs surgical treatment in which the gum tissues are opened and diseased bone and gum tissue are removed to aid in healing. Most people with gum disease will need to go and see your dentist four times a year to help keep the disease under control after treatment. Proper home care is extremely important in keeping the gum disease under control.  Flossing, brushing, and rinsing is important and if not done consistently, the gum disease will return to its bone and gum destructive course. It is not option to skip home care if you want to prevent periodontal disease or if you want to keep it from returning.

How does gum disease affect your overall health?

Not only do the enzymes affect your bone around your teeth, they also affect the tissue all over your body. Your organs and muscles on a cellular level can start weakening.  They have linked periodontal disease with people with heart disease and stroke. There is evidence of the same bacteria found in the plaque and calculus in your mouth being present in the calculus and plaque that builds up in your arteries surrounding your heart increasing your chances for heart disease. There is some evidence that blood clots are forming around these bacteria sites increasing your chances for stroke. It is important to decrease your chances of developing this disease.  Don’t smoke, eat healthy foods and fluids, use proper home care products and techniques and visit your dentist twice a year for your check ups. Don’t let the rotten teeth and swollen gums you’ve seen in the movies become your personal reality show. Your mouth is an important part of your body and you need to treat it as such. Loving your mouth means that you also love your body. Protect your pearly whites!

Marrio ThomasContributed by Dr. Marrio Thomas, DDS. Dr. Marrio is President of the Pan Tennessee Dental Association and CEO of Dr. Marrio Smiles PLLC. Visit him at



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