Gum disease affects more people than you think! In some countries, up to 90% of the population have had some form of gum disease in the past. The two severities of gum disease are described below.
● Gingivitis is a very common condition, with around 75% of people over the age of 35 having had some form of gingivitis in the past.
● The most common cause of gingivitis is the buildup of plaque along the gum line, which makes the gums become red or inflamed. Proper brushing and flossing habits, as well as the additional use of the right mouthwash, can help to prevent this plaque accumulation from occurring.
● Gingivitis is only a mild form of gum disease and all of its effects are reversible with good oral hygiene and the help of your dentist.
● If the buildup of plaque is not removed for a while, it will turn into tartar (also known as calculus) which causes even further bleeding. The tartar traps bacteria in the gums, which can then initiate a more advanced form of gum disease called periodontitis.
● Periodontitis causes your jaw bone to slowly dissolve and your teeth may then become mobile because of this lack of bone support.
● As opposed to gingivitis, the effects of periodontitis are irreversible, meaning the damage has been done. At this point, it is up to your dentist and the patient to consider the best course of action to control the disease and prevent it from worsening.
● Proper brushing and flossing habits, as well as the additional use of appropriate mouthwash, can help to prevent plaque accumulation, in turn reducing the progression of periodontitis. You may be referred to a gum specialist by your dentist.
Tooth wear is the loss of tooth structure due to reasons other than decay & trauma. There are several different reasons why you may have worn teeth, including attrition, abrasion and erosion.
These conditions are explained below:
● Attrition occurs when there is constant grinding between upper and lower teeth, eventually causing teeth to decrease in height over time.
● It usually occurs at night time where it is more commonly known as bruxism.
● Many people are often unaware that they are grinding at all.
● Abrasion is when the tooth structure is lost due to forces from foreign objects. The most common type of abrasion is from the use of a hard bristled tooth brush or strong toothpaste abrasives which can cause damage to the tooth.
● Habits such as fingernail biting or pen chewing can also cause abrasion.
● Erosion is the loss of tooth structure due to the constant exposure of the tooth to acid.
● The main sources of erosion are citrus, soft drinks, coffee, tea, wine & stomach acids. Patients with dry mouth have significantly less saliva present which can also contribute to further erosion.
Ways to avoid getting worn teeth:
● The primary course of action is to identify the cause of the tooth wear, and this can be done through a consultation with your dentist
● If bruxism is the cause, the use of an occlusal splint would be beneficial (also known as a night guard).
● It is best to use soft tooth brushes (or an electric tooth brush) with less-abrasive toothpaste.
● Avoid habits such as nail biting.
● Avoid food and drinks with high amounts of acidity (low pH). Constantly rinsing your mouth can neutralise the acidity present in your mouth.
● Remain constantly hydrated.
● Manage conditions that may contribute to dry mouth. You might need to change medications, however consult your doctor prior to doing so.
How is worn teeth treated?
● Treating worn teeth involves replacing the lost tooth structure with dental materials. However, this is often easier said than done.
● The treatment required depends on the rate that the wear occurred. If wear occurs relatively slowly, then prevention of further wear is of primary importance. The opposing teeth will try to compensate one another by erupting slightly more than they should.
● More often than not, by the time the wear has been noticed by the patient or dentist, it has become significant. Your dentist will need to intervene by building up the worn areas with materials such as dental crowns.
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