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Do you know what common oral disease has been associated with heart disease, stroke, diabetes and preterm low-birth weight babies? According to the November 2006 issue of AGD Impact, the monthly newsmagazine of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), it's periodontal disease and can be easily prevented through regular visits to a general dentist, daily brushing, flossing, and professional cleaning. Periodontal disease is also known as gum disease and it can affect three out of four people in their lifetime.
Gum disease is a chronic inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding tissue. The primary cause of gum disease is bacterial plaque which is a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on the teeth. Toxins (poisons) produced and released by bacteria in plaque cause fibers that hold the gums tightly to the teeth to break down, creating periodontal pockets that fill with even more toxins and bacteria. The pockets may extend deeper, destroy the bone that holds the tooth in place and eventually cause the tooth to fall out.
Anne Murray, DDS, FAGD and AGD spokesperson, says that "risk factors for periodontal disease can include genetics, diet, tobacco use, medications, stress, poor nutrition and clenching or grinding your teeth."
"As a general dentist, we are our patients' primary care provider and that means that we manage their overall dental health care," says AGD President Bruce DeGinder, DDS, MAGD. "A general dentist takes responsibility for the diagnosis, treatment, and overall coordination of services to help meet our patients' oral health needs."
Treatment will consist of scaling and root planing, which involves removing plaque from around the tooth and smoothing the root surfaces. In the early stages of gum disease, called gingivitis, scaling and root planing and proper daily cleaning will achieve a satisfactory result. More advanced cases, however, may require surgical treatment.
"Sticking to a regular oral hygiene regimen is crucial for patients who want to sustain the results of therapy," says Dr. Murray. "Patients with gum disease should visit their general dentist every three to four months as well as floss daily and brush their teeth and tongue at least twice a day."
What are the warning signs of gum disease?
Reviewed: January 2012
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