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Your Guide to Gum Disease: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

By | Gum Disease | No Comments

A lot of times, when people think of their oral health, the teeth instantly come to mind. However, the gums are incredibly important as well. Our gum tissue, or gingiva, helps to hold the teeth in place and serves as a protective seal to keep out harmful bacteria. Additionally, the health of our gums is tied to our overall health since gum disease is linked to a host of problems, including tooth loss, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and, in women, premature birth and low-birth-weight babies. Our Naperville general dentists and specialists are gum disease experts and we’re covering the basics here in our guide to gum disease. 

Key Highlights:

  • Gum disease is caused by a bacterial infection and, if untreated, can lead to the destruction of the bone and connective tissue that support the teeth. 
  • The signs of gum disease include red, swollen, bleeding gums, changes in your bite, bad breath and receding gums. 
  • Gingivitis is gum disease in its earliest stages and is still reversible with professional cleanings and proper homecare.
  • Periodontitis, the more advanced stage of gum disease, isn’t reversible but can be managed by your dentist to prevent further damage and tooth loss. 
  • Gum disease treatment options include professional dental cleaning, scaling and root planing, and more extensive procedures. 

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is when bacteria in the mouth cause infection and inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissues. It can progress and lead to the destruction of the bone, which in turn, can eventually result in tooth loss. There are stages of gum disease. The first stage of periodontal disease is gingivitis. This is when plaque buildup at the gumline causes inflammation. You may notice red, swollen, sore gum tissue and bleeding when you floss. However, in this early stage, gum disease can be reversed. 

The next stage of periodontal disease is periodontitis. Once gingivitis advances to periodontitis, the bone and connective tissue that support the teeth have been damaged irreversibly. You may start to form pockets below the gumline that trap plaque and food. Your dentist, along with a solid homecare routine, can prevent further damage. 

The final step in the stages of gum disease is advanced periodontitis. The connective tissue and bone have been destroyed and your teeth have likely shifted or started to loosen. Aggressive treatment could help to save the teeth but, if it fails, you could need to have some teeth removed. 

Gum Disease Symptoms

The symptoms and signs of gum disease, include:

  • Puffy, swollen gums
  • Gums that bleed
  • Bright red or purplish gums
  • Gums that are tender when touched
  • Spitting out blood after brushing or flossing
  • Bad breath
  • Pus between the teeth and gums
  • Receding gums that make your teeth look longer than normal
  • Change in your bite (the way the teeth fit together)
  • Loose teeth 
  • Pain when chewing
  • Spaces developing between teeth that weren’t there before
  • Change in the fit of partial dentures
  • Tooth loss

What Causes Gum Disease?

As for what causes gum disease, the main cause is plaque build-up. When plaque accumulates on the gumline because it’s not removed with brushing, flossing and professional dental cleanings, it can lead to gingivitis. If this isn’t treated and reversed, it will eventually cause periodontitis. However, there are other risk factors that increase the likelihood a person develops gum disease, including:

  • Smoking or using chewing tobacco
  • Certain medications, such as anticonvulsants, oral contraceptives, steroids, calcium channel blockers and chemotherapy
  • Crowded or crooked teeth that are hard to clean
  • Diabetes
  • Poorly fitted dental appliances
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetics
  • Compromised immunity as with HIV/AIDS

Gum Disease Treatment

When you have gingivitis, it’s all about reversing gum disease and this can often be done with a professional dental cleaning and a dedicated homecare routine. When you come in for a cleaning, a team member will gently remove the hardened plaque, called calculus or tartar, that you can’t get rid of with a toothbrush at home. You’ll want to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once daily in between cleanings. We may also suggest or prescribe a mouthwash depending on your needs. 

If misaligned teeth are at the root of your gingivitis, once we reverse the infection, you may want to consider orthodontic treatment because straight teeth are easier to clean, which can prevent a recurrence of gum disease. As part of Innovative Dental Partners, we’re under the same roof as Innovative Orthodontic Centers. Board-certified orthodontists Dr. Manal Ibrahim and Dr. Christine Gin offer cutting-edge treatment, such as Invisalign® and braces with SureSmile® prescription wires to achieve results more more comfortably and conveniently. Not only will straightening your teeth improve your oral health but, as an added bonus, you’ll get a fantastic smile too. 

If you have periodontitis, you may require scaling and root planing. This is where we get rid of buildup above and below the gumline all the way to the bottom of the gum pockets. We then smooth the tooth roots, which helps prevent plaque from sticking to them. We may also use antibiotics or an antimicrobial cream to prevent infection. That may sound intimidating, but at Naperville Dental Specialists, we believe in painless dentistry and use the latest advances to make procedures comfortable. Once we’ve completed this deep cleaning, you’ll just come in for regular maintenance appointments so we can prevent plaque buildup and keep your gums healthy. 

In cases of advanced periodontitis, there are other gum disease treatment options, such as flap surgery and grafts, which you’ll discuss with your dentist on an individual basis. While reversing gum disease isn’t a possibility at this point, these procedures can sometimes save your teeth. You’ll also have to continue with gum disease treatment at home with regular brushing, flossing and mouthwash. 

Are you interested in Naperville gum disease treatment? Schedule a visit at Naperville Dental Specialists today by calling us at (630) 848-2010! Our knowledgeable dentists will help you restore your gums to optimal health. You can read about the measures we’re taking to keep our patients safe during the coronavirus here

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Bulimia and Teeth: Side Effects, Considerations and Treatments

By | Bulimia, Bulimia and Teeth, Eating Disorders and Teeth, Oral Health, Tooth Decay | No Comments

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that involves a cycle of binging and purging, which refers to binge eating followed by using compensatory behavior, such as self-induced vomiting, laxative use, excessive exercise, fasting or using diet pills or diuretics to rid the body of calories. It’s a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that can affect all aspects of your health, including your oral health, particularly if you practice self-induced vomiting. While the effects of bulimia on the teeth can be significant, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it. Today we’ll be covering everything you need to know about bulimia and teeth from the oral health side effects of the disorder to the treatment options available to restore your smile.
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Why You Should See a Dentist About Halitosis (Bad Breath)

By | Bad Breath Treatment | No Comments

Unless you avoid garlic, onions and a whole lot of delicious food, at some point, you’ll suffer from bad breath, technically known as halitosis. This type of bad breath (or a bit of morning breath) isn’t a concern and usually goes away pretty quickly. However, if halitosis is frequent, persistent or making you feel embarrassed, it’s time to visit your dentist. We offer bad breath treatment in Naperville because it’s a common problem our patients experience and it can occasionally, though not always, indicate a more serious health condition. Here’s what you need to know about the halitosis causes and how to manage the issue.

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Is surgery usually recommended for gum disease?

By | Gum Disease, Oral Health

I have 4 crowns that I got in 2002. My gums are inflamed around all of the crowns. The inflammation became noticeable in January. My dentist has tried antibacterial liquid. She asked me to start flossing 2 times a day. The gums around my natural teeth are fine. It’s just the teeth that have crowns that are presenting the problem. My dentist is suggesting gum surgery to trim my gum tissue. She says it might not work but if there is a problem with the way the crowns fit, trimming my gums will help. I’m wondering why after 15 years there would be a problem with the way my gums fit. For some reason, after examining my teeth and gums my dentist is confident that I don’t have gum disease. That’s somewhat of a relief but I am wondering what’s going on. If she isn’t sure that gum surgery will work, why is she recommending it? Is this normal procedure? Thanks. Norm

Norm – Gum inflammation that is around teeth with crowns, but not around your natural teeth, can result from several issues.

Some possible causes are listed below, but in each case, the reaction would be immediate. It wouldn’t take 15 years to surface:

  • The area around the crowns wasn’t thoroughly cleaned and left free of cement.
  • The crowns don’t fit correctly.
  • The crowns fit too deeply below the gumline.

Other possibilities that are not necessarily immediate include:

  • Metal sensitivity to porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns.
  • Periodontal (gum disease) that can be related to your oral health or your general health.

If you have gum disease, the treatment includes regular, deep cleanings to remove plaque and bacteria from the pockets between your teeth and gums. Gum surgery is not the first resort. If your dentist doesn’t understand how to address the problem, you should be referred to a periodontist—a specialist in gum tissue.

Your dentist hasn’t referred you to a periodontist, so it’s probably best to find one on your own. You can look for online reviews or call other dentists’ office to ask which periodontists they use for their own patients. Don’t allow your dentist’s lack of understanding to delay you from getting help.

This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.

Will gum disease prevent me from getting dental implants?

By | Dental Implants, Gum Disease, Oral Health

I have gum disease and I’m losing teeth. I want dental implants to replace them but my dentist tells me that he has to get my gum disease under control first. It was February of 2016 when he first told me I have gum disease and it seems like it hasn’t gotten any better. I’m not sure what is taking so long to get it straightened out. I don’t want to keep losing teeth while he tries to get things under control. Can I get dental implants from another dentist or do I have to wait for my dentist to figure out what he is doing? Thanks. Karmin

Karmin – Dental implants are the best option to replace teeth that are loose or missing due to periodontal (gum) disease. Before you receive implants, periodontal disease should be under control. If it’s been a year, and your dentist isn’t able to control your gum disease, it might be time to visit a periodontist—a specialist in diseases of the gum tissue.

How Periodontal Disease Can Affect Dental Implants

Dental implants are most successful in people with sufficient bone density and healthy gum tissue. Here’s why periodontal disease should be controlled first:

  • Advanced periodontal disease damages gum tissue and bone. Bone and gums should have a snug fit around tooth roots or dental implant fixtures.
  • If gum disease has caused your gums to recede, the base of your dental implants will be exposed. It will be challenging to keep the exposed area clean and free of plaque buildup.
  • Thin or receding gums around an implant fixture are unattractive. Either the fixture will show through thin gums, or be completely exposed if your gums recede.

We recommend that you have a consultation with an experienced prosthodontist. After an examination, 3-D x-rays, and a review of your medical history, he or she will let you know if you are a candidate for this treatment.

The prosthodontist will also determine if your gums are healthy enough and thick enough to support dental implants. Bone grafting and gum tissue grafting might be needed to ensure stability and success of your implants. In several months, the grafts will heal, and the implant fixtures will be surgically placed in your jawbone.

After your periodontal disease is controlled, if you receive dental implants, your oral health will likely improve. The fixtures stimulate bone grown and promote healthy gum tissue.

This post is sponsored by Naperville board-certified prosthodontist Dr. Anthony LaVacca

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Should I expect complications when my abscessed tooth is pulled?

By | Oral Health, Root Canal Treatment

I had a horrible toothache for about 5 months and finally went to the dentist. Well I went to an emergency dentist because I don’t have a regular dentist. She said that I had an abscess but she couldn’t get me numb to get the tooth out. I have antibiotics and another appointment late next week. I am worried that she won’t be able to get the tooth out even if she can get me numb. Should I expect complications my abscessed tooth is pulled? Janele

Janele – An abscess is a pocket of pus caused by an infection. A tooth abscess occurs in or around a tooth root.  It may or may not be painful.

If a tooth is injured, has a cavity, or experiences trauma, an infection can occur. When the pulp, or soft tissue inside the tooth, becomes infected and inflamed, the infection can spread to the tooth root, and an abscess will form.

Properly Treating an Abscessed Tooth

Instead of extracting an infected tooth, an abscess is commonly treated with a root canal treatment. The infection is removed from the tooth, the space is filled with a special dental filler material, and the tooth is sealed. A dental crown may be required to protect the tooth.

On rare occasions, root canal treatment isn’t enough to save your tooth, and endodontic surgery is required. A specialist can locate hidden canals in your tooth that may still harbor the infection. He or she will determine which methods are best to preserve your tooth.

And that’s the goal—tooth preservation. Based on the information you provided us, we don’t understand why there are plans to extract your tooth. We recommend that you receive a second opinion from an experienced dentist who will examine, and likely x-ray your tooth, to determine the best treatment.

Extracting a tooth leads to other issues, including bone shrinkage in the area of the missing tooth, adjacent teeth start to drift into the position of the missing one, and your bite may be affected and eventually cause jaw and facial pain. When a tooth is extracted, for optimum oral health, it will need to be replaced. No form of tooth replacement is as good as a natural tooth.

You would benefit if you take the time to receive a second opinion to find out if your tooth can be preserved.

This post is sponsored by Naperville Dental Specialists.

Steroids and antibiotics aren’t helping after my root canal

By | Root Canal Treatment

I got a canal at the beginning of July and my tooth still hurts. The pain is pretty bad. My dentist prescribed steroids and antibiotics but I can’t tell that they did anything at all. Actually my tooth has been hurting since July but not it is getting worse. If I mistakenly bite down on anything with the tooth the pain is off the charts. The gum around the tooth hurts and the pain feels like it is deep in the tooth. I am not sure what should be done about this but I am not taking any more steroids for a tooth especially since it didn’t help at all. What should I ask my dentist to do about this tooth? Thanks. Vickie

Vickie,

Your concern about not taking any more steroids is valid. Although steroids can help treat root canal pain, they also prevent your body from properly fighting the infection. We’ll explain why some dentists prescribe steroids after root canal treatment.

During root canal treatment, instruments are used to clean the tooth. The tooth gets irritated, the tissue in it inflames, and there is pain after the treatment. The swollen tissue also raises the height of the tooth, which affects your occlusion, or the way your teeth fit together. The pressure on the tooth from the imbalanced bite causes more pain and inflammation. Steroids are effective in treating the inflammation.

As we mentioned, not only is inflammation blocked with steroids, so is your body’s ability to fight the infection. So antibiotics are prescribed for the infection. The symptoms you describe probably indicate here is still an infection in your tooth and another root canal treatment is needed. If a specialist didn’t perform the first root canal treatment, ask to be referred to a specialist. He or she might be able to get to the very tip of the roots and remove the infection. If the case is complex, the tooth might need to be extracted.

Instead of prescribing steroids and antibiotics, some dentists choose to give patients high-strength ibuprofen before the appointment. Time is allowed for the body to absorb the anti-inflammatory drug, which in turn limits inflammation after the root canal treatment. Additionally, the tooth that requires the root canal treatment is reduced a little to prevent it from rising and causing occlusal issues after the treatment. The tooth would eventually need to be reduced in size to accommodate a dental crown. Post-operative pain is minimal.

Contact your dentist for another evaluation of your tooth, or schedule an appointment for a second opinion with a prosthodontist.

This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist and board-certified prosthodontist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.

2 loose teeth

By | General Dentistry, Gum Disease

I have 2 loose teeth. I get dental cleanings regularly and I am sure that they have noticed my teeth are loose but I think it’s strange that no one ever said anything to me. My sister told me that I should check with another dentist just to be sure that nothing serious is wrong. Now I am scared and a little angry that this problem was overlooked. I got my teeth cleaned 2 months ago. Wouldn’t they have noticed a problem? If I go to a dentist with loose teeth will they automatically pull them out? – Faith P.

Faith – If you go to the dentist with loose teeth, he or she will x-ray and examine your teeth to determine why they are loose.

Trauma can cause loose teeth, in which case they may need to be stabilized. Have you recently experienced trauma to your teeth? Over time, grinding your teeth can cause them to become loose. Also, if teeth are misaligned, they can put pressure on other teeth and cause them to become loose.

Periodontal (gum) disease is another cause of loose teeth. If you have periodontal disease, loss of gum and bone around a tooth can make it loose.

Your dentist or a periodontist may perform a periodontal pocket procedure to fold back your gum tissue and remove the bacterial. Damaged bone may be smoothed. This procedure will help your gum tissue attach itself to the healthy bone.

Instead of extracting your teeth, every effort will be made to save them. If it is necessary to extract a tooth, it can be replaced with a dental implant.

Don’t worry excessively though, the cause of your loose teeth has to be determined first. Your dentist will recommend options. Since you are seeking a new dentist, we recommend that you find a prosthodontist—a specialist with advanced training in restoring teeth. You can get a second opinion before you make a final decision for a dental provider.

This blog post is sponsored by Naperville board-certified prosthodontist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.

Hole in my tooth and drugstore filler won’t stay in

By | Dental Fillings, Emergency Dentistry

I have a hole in my tooth but it doesn’t hurt. It was getting sensitive to hot and cold drinks so I got some Dentek from the drugstore. It used to work fine but it started falling out recently. Maybe the hole in my tooth is getting bigger? I don’t know. Can you recommend another product other than Dentek that might hold better now? Nezaida

Nezaida – Over-the-counter dental filler is a temporary repair for a tooth. It doesn’t eliminate the need to go to a dentist to have the tooth examined, x-rayed, and restored.

Although you don’t feel pain, the tooth can still be infected. The infection can affect other teeth, your jawbone, and spread elsewhere in your body. If the pulp (living tissue) inside your tooth dies, the nerves die with it, and you won’t feel pain in the tooth. If that’s the case, a root canal treatment is needed.

Schedule an appointment with your dentist right away to have your tooth examined. If the cavity is too large for composite filling, a porcelain onlay or inlay may be used to restore the tooth. Onlays and inlays preserve tooth structure, and in addition to building up the tooth again, they look completely natural.

A badly damaged tooth may require a porcelain crown. Visit an experienced cosmetic dentist for an examination and to learn about your options. Please don’t continue to try to repair the tooth yourself. If you prolong treatment, the damage to your tooth can progress and make treatment more difficult and more costly.

This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.

My son’s gums bleed when he brushes his teeth

By | Gum Disease, Oral Health, Pediatric Dentist

I finally got our 4 yr old into brushing his teeth twice a day. He actually started liking it. I was surprised. 2 weeks ago he was brushing and I was helping and his gums started bleeding. I had him rinse his mouth and everything was okay. I figured maybe he was brushing too hard, so I told him to do it softly. That seemed to work until last week. He was brushing his teeth on 2 different occasions and the gums started bleeding again. I am trying to be calm about this because he is just comfortable with brushing his teeth and I don’t want him to freak out or think that brushing teeth means bleeding gums. I know that he isn’t brushing too hard any more. Does he have gum disease at 4? Thanks. Tuscany

Tuscany – There are several possible causes of your son’s bleeding gums. For an accurate diagnosis, though, schedule an appointment with your son’s pediatric dentist.

One possible cause is dry mouth. Does your son breathe with his mouth open? Does he drink plenty of water daily? Or is he taking medication that has dry mouth as a side effect? Any of these factors can cause the gums to become tight, dry, and more likely to bleed.

Vigorous brushing is another cause of bleeding gums, but you have mentioned that your son isn’t brushing his teeth tooth hard. Continue to monitor him to ensure that he isn’t brushing aggressively. A soft-bristled toothbrush should be used.

There are certain medical conditions, including some auto-immune conditions that can cause gums to bleed easily. Bleeding gums may be related to the beginning stages of periodontal (gum disease).

Again, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with your son’s pediatric dentist for accurate diagnosis and treatment. If you have already seen a pediatric dentist about the issue, consider getting a second opinion and speaking with your medical doctor about it.

This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.