Cavities & Gum Disease
Cavities (a hole in a tooth) are actually a symptom of dental caries, which is a bacterial infectious communicable disease that occurs in the mouth. Cavities occur when there is too much sugar in the presence of streptococcus mutans and lactobacilli bacteria adhering to the tooth surface. These bacteria then produce acid that causes the cavity.
When a patient’s saliva gets overwhelmed by acid in the mouth, the teeth start to de-mineralize. De-mineralization can be reduced and/or reversed by limiting the acid attacks on the tooth. This is why it is important to catch cavities early in the process and why diet changes, the use of fluoride, and remineralization pastes rich in calcium and phosphate are sometimes advised as part of the cavity-fighting strategy.
Gum Disease is often characterized by bad breath! Recent research has implicated gum disease as a notable factor in atherosclerotic heart disease and stroke. It appears that having a chronic bacterial infection in the mouth allows a significant number of bacteria to enter the blood stream, many of which will then adhere to the inside of arteries causing or helping to form the “plaque” that blocks arteries. There also is a proven link between gum disease and diabetes.
Gum disease (much like dental caries above) is caused by bacteria that inhabit the human mouth. These bacteria reproduce continuously and accumulate on tooth surfaces not disturbed by lips or tongue, primarily those areas in between the teeth and adjacent to the gums. Once acquired, these bacteria are impossible to completely remove or destroy, so the patient must intentionally work at keeping them cleaned off of the teeth on a daily basis.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum surface, usually caused by toxins from bacteria, and can be an early indicator that more advanced gum disease is on the way. In the early stages, gum disease can be reversed by thoroughly cleaning the teeth and then continuing to keep dental plaque levels low enough to avoid the cycle starting over again.
Advanced gum disease: If gingivitis has been present long enough, the inflammation can become an infection of the underlying tissue and bone called periodontitis. If some of the underlying bone has been destroyed, a more complex treatment will be needed to restore your mouth to health. In some cases antibiotics are needed as well. Advanced gum disease often requires one or more of the following procedures:
- Cleaning the root surfaces in the area, (called scaling and root planning)
- Antibiotic and anti-microbial treatments
- Surgically re-contouring the bone and related gum tissue
- Bone-grafting procedures
- Gum grafting procedures
This office can provide the non-surgical procedures mentioned above. We have helped numerous patients overcome the health concern, stigma and annoyances caused by gum disease. If the non-surgical steps here and improved care at home do not completely resolve the problem, we refer you to and work closely with a dentist who specializes in gum diseases (periodontist).