Plaque and periodontal disease

Plaque is a soft, colourless substance which is difficult to see until the coating is quite thick. It collects on the surfaces of teeth, mainly next to the gums and between the teeth.

Is tartar the same thing as plaque?

Not exactly. Tartar (calculus) is formed when substances in the saliva, such as calcium, combine with plaque making it hard. This happens commonly behind the lower front teeth. Once calculus has formed, it will have to be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist.

What do inflamed gums look like?

Inflamed gums are red, swollen and bleed on brushing. Plaque is often visible on the surface of teeth, beside each area of inflammation. In time the plaque on the crown of the tooth may spread below gum level. Periodontis is the name given to the stage of the disease when inflammation reaches the bone. This results in periodontal disease.

Why is it important to recognise and treat periodontal (gum) disease ?

Long standing gum disease will eventually result in loosening and loss of teeth and loss of function, making it difficult to chew, and eat, and this will have a knock on effect on other teeth in the mouth.  Antwerp Dentistry clinicians have agreed a periodontal clinical pathway which results in early identification and treatment for gum disease. With gum disease affecting more than 50% of the population, our practices employ several hygienists to ensure we have the capacity to treat this condition and see you frequently enough to prevent progression.

There is emerging evidence that gum disease is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and pre-term infants in pregnant mothers.

When specific bacteria from diseased gum pockets enter the blood stream they cause a low level of inflammation in the arteries across the body, including vessels of the heart. This generalised inflammation makes the arteries leaky which then absorb cells , known as monocytes. These cells  metabolise cholesterol and migrate into the wall of blood vessels in the heart and cause the build up of fatty deposits around the heart vessels known as “atheroma”.  The atheromas narrow the heart vessels, and result in reduced oxygen flow to the heart. This can result in heart attacks and strokes later in life.

Our science is far from complete, and whereas we CAN categorically say that there is an association between gum disease and heart disease, we have not confirmed that gum disease actually causes heart disease. Nevertheless, we are not minded to wait for such proof to prevent a debilitating disease that affects oral comfort and function and which may pose a long term threat to your health and life.

Make sure you book a regular hygienist appointment today to reduce and prevent gum disease, and enjoy a healthy life.

There seems to be a “two-directional” relationship between diabetes and gum disease.

  • If you do not control your blood sugar, this seems to make gum disease worse
  • Conversely, when gum disease is active, this seems to result in poor control of blood sugar

Once again, our science does not prove a causal relationship between gum disease and diabetes, however there is certainly an association. We will therefore do our part to carefully diagnose and treat gum disease to aid your glycemic control and prevent your diabetes from becoming worse. Indeed, in some of our patients, identifying unstable gum disease has been the first indication of diabetes, and our intervention has been the trigger to investigate the condition. Often gum treatment has been the intervention that has aided glycemic control.

If you are diabetic and do not have regular visits with your hygienist, it is about time you started getting into good habits to protect your gums and general health.

It is not often publicised that young  woman who are about to become woman could be putting their baby at risk if they have gum disease. Over the years various studies have emerged which suggest that in the pregnant woman with gum disease their is an increased chance of a pre-term labour and all the attendant risks that puts on your baby. If you are planning to have a baby, it is worth having a gum check and ensuring that any gum disease is treated.

Once again, no cause and effect relationship exists between gum disease and pre-term infants, however a proven association certainly does exist.

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