Our Blog

What is gum disease?

May 15th, 2019

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is an infection of the gum tissues, and is something seen all too often by Dr. Kristen Erskin. Extending from inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) to more serious infections and complications (periodontitis), there is a wide range of gum disease severity.

Not only does gum disease affect the health of your mouth and teeth, but according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, it can affect your general health as well. This is because an infection in the mouth as a result of gum disease can travel to other parts of your body through the bloodstream. Gum disease is also a risk factor for heart disease, and can play a role in blood sugar levels.

Causes and Risk Factors

Gum disease is essentially caused by the build-up of bacteria in your mouth. If you brush and floss every day, this bacteria is washed away, but if not, it turns into plaque. If left unchecked, this plaque buildup can lead to gum disease.

Some of the common risk factors for gum disease include not taking good care of your teeth, failing to have one’s teeth cleaned every six months, experiencing hormonal changes, smoking cigarettes, developing diabetes, being genetically exposed to gum disease, or taking certain types of medications.

Gingivitis versus Periodontitis

There are two main types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Both are bad for you, but gingivitis is less severe. It is typically the first stage, and involves inflammation of the gums from plaque and tartar on the teeth. If your gums are swollen and bleed, this is a sign of gingivitis.

Periodontitis, a more severe case of gum disease, occurs when your gums pull away from the teeth and pockets form. These pockets are a concern because they can harbor infection.

Treatments for Gum Disease

Treatments for gum disease depend on the cause and severity. Deep cleaning to remove the plaque underneath the gum line – called root scaling and planing – is one of the most common treatments for gum disease. Antibiotics placed under the gums to rid you of an infection or reduce the inflammation may also be advised. In some cases, surgical procedures, including flap surgery and bone and tissue grafts, are needed.

If you have bleeding or swollen gums, pockets between your gums and teeth, pain, or other issues, you might have gum disease. Visit Green Hills Dental for an exam and learn the best course of action.

Heart Disease and Oral Health

May 8th, 2019

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, more than 200 million Americans suffer from some degree of inflammation of the gums. Over the past decade, researchers have published studies that link the bacteria involved in periodontal disease to cardiovascular disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have connected oral infections to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and low birth weights.

Studies suggest bacteria that cause periodontal disease are also responsible for causing a thickening of the carotid arteries, which increases the chance of a heart attack or stroke. Further research is being conducted to understand the link between oral health and heart disease better.

What is periodontal (gum) disease?

Dr. Kristen Erskin and our team at Green Hills Dental hear this question all the time. Periodontal disease is an infection. Our mouths are filled with bacteria, and this bacteria forms plaque. If the plaque is not removed through brushing, flossing, and regular cleanings at the dentist, it hardens into tartar. If gingivitis (gum inflammation) is not treated early, it can advance to periodontitis. Bacteria get under the gum tissue and erode it as well as the bone that supports the teeth. The gums eventually pull away from the teeth, and infected pockets form.

Proving that periodontal gum disease is connected to heart disease has been difficult for researchers. However, there are two theories about to what might connect the processes.

  • Bacteria are released in the bloodstream through chewing and tooth brushing. The same species of bacteria that causes gum disease has been discovered in the plaque in arteries in the heart.
  • Inflammation in the mouth is a catalyst for inflammation throughout the rest of the body.

Practice good oral health habits

While the link between periodontitis and heart disease is not yet fully understood, you can prevent the possibility of health complications by practicing good oral health. It’s recommended that you brush and floss twice a day, as well as visit your dentist twice a year for a cleaning and exam. Oral health should not be taken for granted. By preventing oral diseases, you’re also minimizing the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

To learn more about the connection between heart disease and oral health, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kristen Erskin, please give us a call at our convenient Kansas City office! A clean mouth leads to a happy heart!

What are the benefits of visiting a dentist regularly?

May 1st, 2019

Your regularly scheduled dental checkups with Dr. Kristen Erskin are not just meant to make your smile prettier and healthier. Your mouth’s health has an important impact on your overall physical health as well!

While you may brush your teeth twice a day and even floss, we would like to remind you that dental checkups with Dr. Kristen Erskin every six months aren’t just about addressing problems and reacting, they are about cavity and gum disease prevention.

In addition to a twice yearly thorough teeth cleaning and polishing at Green Hills Dental, these regular visits help us detect and prevent the onset of tooth decay and gum disease. During your visit, we’ll check the health of your mouth, teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue. We’ll also check old fillings and restorations, as these can wear away over time from constant chewing, grinding, or clenching.

It’s important to know that the majority of dental problems do not become visible or painful until they are highly advanced. And, unfortunately, serious oral issues are painful and expensive to treat.

While Dr. Kristen Erskin and our team always strive to provide unmatched dental care for you and your family, we are also committed to your overall wellness as well! A deep cleaning twice a year is the best way to prevent any problems that may have gone unseen. If you are overdue for your next cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our Kansas City office!

The Link Between Dental Hygiene and Your Overall Health

April 24th, 2019

When patients of Green Hills Dental hear any mention of oral or dental hygiene, they probably think of brushing and flossing their teeth. Although these are extremely important, the term dental hygiene encompasses much more than that. Your mouth’s health, including your teeth, has an important impact on your overall physical health. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research published the surgeon general's first ever report on dental health. It is called A National Call to Action to Promote Oral Health. In that report, the Surgeon General states that the 1948 World Health Organization expanded its earlier definition of health to "a complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being, and not just the absence of infirmity."

The Importance of Oral Health to Total Overall Health

One of the most important themes that the dental health report stressed is that you cannot be healthy without oral health. It went on to explain that oral health and general health are inextricably linked, and therefore can't be seen as two separate things. Because oral health is so critical to overall health, it should be included in all community health programs. For individuals, this means that it is just as important to take care of your mouth, your teeth, and your overall oral health as it is to take care of the rest of your body. The two most prevalent dental diseases are caries (cavities), also known as tooth decay, and periodontal (gum) disease.

Ways that Oral Health Impacts Overall Health

One important way in which good oral health contributes to better overall health is seen in the findings of several studies in which the blood sugar levels of diabetic patients were significantly lowered when their periodontal (or gum disease) was successfully treated. Your mouth has roughly 500 different species of bacteria. Many are harmless, and some are even good bacteria that help maintain the balance of your intestinal flora. Harmful bacteria can infect your gums, causing gingivitis. Your body's immune system may try to fight off the alien invaders, but they attack your gums, causing inflammation and bleeding when you brush.

Now that you know how important good dental hygiene is, be sure to see to get your teeth cleaned every six months, have regular dental checkups, brush and floss your teeth at least twice daily, and replace your toothbrush at least every couple of months. Call us to schedule your next appointment at our convenient Kansas City location.

 
Text Us!