If you’re like most Americans, you probably take your gums for granted, focusing your oral healthcare on your teeth. However, maintaining your periodontal tissue is just as important as cleaning your teeth when it comes to keeping your smile healthy. Unfortunately, the American Dental Association recently reported that, “according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…periodontal disease affects nearly half of the U.S. population.” At Dr. Cindy Flanagan’s Houston dental practice, our team is here to help you avoid becoming part of this sobering statistic. Educating yourself about your gums and attending regular checkups can go a long way in keeping your mouth healthy. In the following blog, we explain what periodontal exams are, why you need them, and how we can help you.
Gum Disease Fundamentals
First, it’s important to understand what gum disease actually is. Basically, the same bacteria that eat away at your enamel and cause cavities can infect your periodontal tissue, causing it to become inflamed and irritated. During its early, mild stage, this infection is called gingivitis, and can usually be treated with better oral hygiene techniques. However, if left untreated (as, regrettably, it often is), gingivitis can progress into periodontitis, a serious condition that can create pockets of infection, gum recession, and even tooth loss. For these reasons, it is important to keep both your teeth and your gums clean. Similarly to cavities, it is also vital to catch gum disease before it becomes much more difficult to treat.
What Happens During a Periodontal Exam?
Similar to a dental assessment, a periodontal exam is a procedure to observe and evaluate the health of your gum tissue. This allows Dr. Flanagan to determine if you suffer from gum disease or any other periodontal problems so she can diagnose and treat them rapidly. The American Academy of Periodontology “recommends an annual comprehensive periodontal evaluation.” Once a year, Dr. Flanagan will examine: “your teeth, your plaque, your gums, your bite, your bone structure, [and] your risk factors.”
As a recent Registered Dental Hygienist magazine article explains, this often involves measuring “pocket depth” or the length of your gums relative to your teeth, checking for “bleeding on probing,” since this is a notable symptom of gum disease, looking for “recession,” since your gums may start to pull back from your teeth when infected, and looking for “mobility” issues, or loose teeth, among other diagnostic techniques.
Based on her analysis, Dr. Flanagan will create a customized periodontal plan for you, which could include improved oral hygiene recommendations, treatments for your gums, or even referring you to a specialist in more severe cases.
The Power of a Periodontal Exam
Why should you go to the trouble to have your gums assessed? There are a few key reasons:
· It’s likely you may be suffering from periodontal conditions without realizing this is the case. The American Academy of Periodontology explains: “Recent research has indicated the prevalence of periodontal disease in the U.S. may be significantly higher than originally estimated.” It isn’t safe to assume that your gums are fine.
· Gum tissue issues may be signs of more general health concerns. According to the American Academy of Periodontolgoy, “research has also shown, and experts agree, that there is an association between periodontal disease and other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory diseases.” Catching gum disease could help you “ensure that your entire body stays healthy.”
· Your periodontal health can have a major impact on your smile. Since your gums hold your teeth in place, you could end up losing your precious pearly whites to undiagnosed, untreated periodontal problems. Furthermore, unhealthy gums may make daily activities like eating, drinking, and speaking more uncomfortable or difficult.
For these reasons and more, we urge you to undergo at least annual periodontal exams.
How We Can Help
Dr. Flanagan and our team provide periodontal exams at regular preventive care appointments, which you should attend at least twice per year. If you do suffer from gum disease, we can also perform periodontal therapy to help remove bacteria, tartar, and roughness below the gum line. In more advanced cases, Dr. Flanagan can refer you to a periodontal specialist for further diagnosis.
Are You Ready for Your Periodontal Exam?
It’s time to take care of your gums, and this begins with assessing their health. Contact our Houston dental practice today to find out more and schedule an appointment with Dr. Flanagan.