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Oral Health; Key Q&A.

* How can I prevent gum disease?

Preventing gum disease is really quite simple, and takes only minutes each day. Follow this easy seven-step plan to prevent gum disease:

* Brush and floss once every day. The American Dental Association (ADA) advocates brushing twice each day. Although there is research indicating that brushing once a day is sufficient to disrupt the formation of plaque that feeds the bacteria that cause decay, this may not be enough for some people, depending on factors such as their diets and the efficacy of their brushing technique. The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) recommends that you discuss this with your dentist or dental hygienist who understands your individual oral health needs and will be able to make a recommendation appropriate for you.

* Purchase oral care products that are safe and effective (and may carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance).

* Choose a variety of foods from the basic food groups, and make sure you get enough calcium in your diet.

* Limit sweet snacks. If you do snack, choose nutritious foods, such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt or a piece of fruit.

* Instead of drinking soda, drink water.

* Stop smoking and other forms of tobacco use.

* Stop smoking.

* How is gum disease diagnosed?

First, your dentist and dental hygienist will look at your gums to see if they are red, swollen and inflamed and will check for tartar (hardened plaque) beneath the gum line. The dentist and dental hygienist will also check for gum recession. Second, he or she will use an instrument called a probe to see if the gums bleed when they are probed and will check and measure the periodontal pockets. Deeper pockets may signal advanced disease. Third, the dentist and dental hygienist will check for loose teeth. Finally, if he or she feels it's necessary, mouth x-rays will be taken to check for any loss of the bone that helps anchor teeth.

* How is gum disease treated?

Controlling the infection treats gum diseases. The dentist, dental hygienist or periodontist removes the plaque and tartar with scaling and root planing or debridement, which are non-surgical, deep-cleaning procedures. During scaling, the dentist or dental hygienist removes the bacteria and tartar from above and beneath the gum line. The dentist or dental hygienist also eliminates any rough spots where bacteria gather (such as rough filling margins), allowing the gums to become healthy. Your dentist might also prescribe a special anti-germ mouth rinse containing a chemical called chlorhexidine. In cases of chronic periodontitis, a local antibiotic/antimicrobial may be placed directly into the periodontal pocket in the form of fibers, chips, gels or microspheres containing powder encapsulated in a polymer. This kills the bacteria directly at the site of infection, with little or no systemic (bodily) absorption. This prevents the majority of problems associated with systemic antibiotic use, such as bacterial resistance or allergic reaction. For other forms of periodontitis, the dentist may prescribe a systemic (taken by mouth) antibiotic to treat that particular form of periodontal (gum) disease. After periodontal therapy scaling and planing, the patient must brush and floss her teeth at home to keep plaque from accumulating again. If scaling and planing non-surgical therapy does not bring the infection under control, surgery might be necessary. Flap surgery involves lifting back the gums, removing the tartar and then sewing the gums back in place.

* Do I really need to floss my teeth?

Yes! Flossing removes food particles between teeth that your toothbrush can't reach. Brushing alone reaches only three out of five tooth surfaces. Also, the surfaces tooth brushing can't reach are areas where gum disease can most easily get started in your mouth. For healthy teeth and gums, floss every day. If you have large spaces between your teeth, an interdental brush may also be helpful.

* How often should I change my toothbrush?

Most dental professionals recommend that toothbrushes be replaced every three months, or more frequently if you are an extremely vigorous brusher. Ideally, you should brush gently (so you do not injure the gum tissue) and carefully, not vigorously. Toothbrushes should also be replaced after you or family members have had a cold, flu, or other upper respiratory infection. DO NOT share toothbrushes with other family members.

* At what age should my child first visit the dentist?

Generally speaking, when a child has all of his or her primary teeth in place, it is a good time to have his or her first oral exam. The first cleaning and check-up appointment can follow a few months later, depending on the child's maturity and readiness to accept the treatment. The goal is to have your child's first dental experience be a positive one. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that a child have his or her first oral health care appointment around age one. The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) suggests an oral health visit as soon as a baby's first tooth erupts.

* Are fluoride treatments effective for adults?

Yes. Topical application of fluoride increases the level of fluoride on the outermost surface of the tooth, regardless of the age of the tooth. While most people tend to think of children as being more prone to cavities, adults still get decay. Women are keeping their own natural teeth longer, and root decay is a condition that is more likely to occur as we age. The key is multiple applications of fluoride with fluoridated toothpaste, possibly a home fluoride rinse or gel and in-office treatments. Your dentist or dental hygienist can prescribe the best home care and in-office treatment options based on your individual oral health care needs.

* How often should I get my teeth cleaned by a dental health professional?

All women have individual, varied needs. The interval of six months for "cleaning and check-up" is a commonly recommended time frame, which may or may not be appropriate for you. For example, during pregnancy, hormonal changes, the lack of good daily mouth care, presence of mouth problems and dietary habits make your mouth more susceptible to tooth decay, gingivitis and periodontal bone loss. Women who are pregnant may need to see their dentist and dental hygienist more often than every six months. If you have concerns about the frequency of your maintenance "recall" appointments you should discuss them with your dentist and dental hygienist. Together you can reach a maintenance "recall" schedule that is appropriate for your oral condition and that fits your busy schedule.

The American Academy of Periodontology. Last modified July 2003. http://www.perio.org. Accessed Aug. 2003.

The American Dental Association. Copyright 1995-2003. http://www.ada.org. Accessed Aug. 2003.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General". Washington, DC: USDHHS, Office of the Surgeon General, 2000. http://www.surgeongeneral.gov. Accessed Aug. 2003.

"Gum-chewers Have New Reason to Smile" Academy of General Dentistry. http://www.agd.org. Accessed Dec. 2002.

"Burning Mouth Syndrome May Flare Up In Middle-Aged Women." Academy of General Dentistry. http://www.agd.org. Accessed Dec. 2002.

"Oral Health: Preventing Cavities, Gum Disease, and Oral Cancers" US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed April 2003. http://www.cdc.gov. Accessed Aug. 2003.

"Obesity and Periodontal Disease in Young, Middle-Aged, and Older Adults" Journal of Periodontology, May 2003 (Vol. 74, No. 5). http://www.perio.org. Accessed Aug. 2003.

Editorial Staff of the National Women's Health Resource Center 2002/02/01 2005/06/13 Oral health, the condition of the mouth (including the gums, teeth, and jawbone), goes far beyond white teeth and no cavities. Gingivitis,Oral health,Periodontal disease,Periodontitis,Plaque,Scaling and root planning,Tartar,Xerostomia
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Title Annotation:gum disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention
Publication:NWHRC Health Center - Oral Health
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 13, 2005
Words:1280
Previous Article:Oral Health; Facts to Know.
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