September 1, 2018
The elimination of bacteria in the mouth, while sounding like a good goal, is not a realistic one. There are good bacteria in the mouth that aid in the digestion process, and bacteria that are destructive when present in too great of numbers in the mouth. The bacteria in plaque has been found to be the primary cause of periodontal disease and tooth decay. Since my specialty is the prevention of periodontal disease, I will focus this essay on discussing the causes and prevention of periodontitis.
In a 6 year study in the United States, written up in the Journal of the American Dental Association, the conclusion was that 42% of US adults have periodontitis of some type; mild, moderate or severe. This means that many of the adults in the survey had periodontal disease, but also that many more in the general population of the US probably have periodontal disease.
The major way to control and reduce this disease is to control the plaque level in the mouth. Brushing well, thoroughly, and effectively takes about 2 minutes. I tell patients to put their favorite song on the radio or on their phone, time two minutes of playing it, and brush for that whole time. Small circular brush strokes followed by a brush stroke with a vertical motion, from the gum level to the incisal edge of the tooth, are most effective at removing dental plaque on the cheek side and the tongue side. A horizontal stroke along the biting surfaces is effective for removing plaque in the grooves. After brushing for 2 minutes, then flossing around each tooth to remove plaque in between the teeth is essential.
Several factors affect the presence of disease in the mouth. Stress, diet, other systemic diseases being present (like diabetes), inadequate professional cleanings and other risk factors may allow the bacterial growth that attacks the gum tissue. There is also a genetic pre-disposition that has been shown to increase the presence of periodontal disease.
Our goal is to help educate our patients in such a way that they will be motivated to improve their oral health. If you lack that drive to amp up your home care, let us know and we will help. If you are doing all the things you can do to keep our teeth and gums healthy and there are areas that are inflamed and red, there may be another cause of this problem. Sjogrens Syndrome, low vitamin B or anemia, and changes in hormone levels are examples of conditions that contribute to gingivitis and periodontal disease if gingivitis is left untreated.
I hope this helps you understand the contributing factors of periodontal disease and the means of preventing it. Smile! It makes you and everyone around you happier!
Funk Dental – Protecting and Perfecting Your Smile
Pam Funk, BS, RDH