Thursday, November 1, 2012

Smoking and Your Teeth and Gums

Mothers have a hard enough time keeping a child’s hands clean, let alone caring for the little one’s teeth! It is difficult to know when is the right time to begin brushing your child’s teeth or even schedule the first visit with the dentist. Many parents make the mistake of thinking that their child is too young to see a dentist. Some children do not see a dentist until they enter school.

The fact is that you can begin training your children to become comfortable with brushing their teeth as early as a few months old. Infants should have their gums cleaned once per day either with a clean washcloth on the end of your finger or by using a gum cleaner specially made for infants. The baby will welcome the cleaning as it massages their tender gums and alleviates some of the pain associated with teething.

Brushing your child’s teeth on a regular basis lays the foundation for a lifelong routine of oral care. Just as it takes time to train a child to use the potty or wash their hands before eating, it takes time to instill healthy oral hygiene.

Most people think that gum disease only affects the elderly or people who do not brush their teeth. This is not accurate. Teens are at the same risk for gum disease as adults. In addition, brushing and flossing alone does not guarantee that you will not get gum disease. It is estimated that more than 75% of people have some form of gum disease and out of those, 90% have no symptoms to alert them that they have a problem.

Simply stated, gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums. The infection is specifically located in the small space between the tooth and gums. The disease attacks the area of the gum that attaches to your teeth and causes the gum line to break down. As the tissue breaks down, a pocket is formed. The worse the disease is, the deeper the pocket becomes. 

There are two stages of gum disease, gingivitis, and periodontitis. Gingivitis is a mild and reversible form of the disease. Gingivitis only affects the gums. Periodontitis is the advanced form of the disease that affects the gums, teeth, and bone. If left untreated, gum disease will cause the teeth to shift, and they may be need to be extracted. Serious cases of periodontital disease have been known to cause teeth to simply fall out!

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of gum disease. Periodontists spend an additional three years studying the disease beyond what is required in dental school. 

The American Academy of Periodontology educates the public on the dangers of tobacco use and its effect on the gums. Along with the American Medical Association and the American heart Association, the American Academy of Periodontology has been educating people for years about the risks associated with tobacco use. Those risks include cancer, heart and lung disease, and low birth weight babies. Despite the risks that we all are aware of, people continue to smoke. There is another very good reason to quit smoking and that is your oral health. Smoking increases your risk for periodontal disease. 

The American Dental Association estimates that smoking and tobacco use may be responsible for more than 50% of the instances of periodontal disease. A study conducted by the American Academy of Periodontology found that smokers are more than 4 times at risk for periodontal disease than those who have never smoked. After quitting smoking for at least 10 years, former smoker’s chances of developing periodontal disease is about the same as those who have never smoked. Dentists agree that tobacco use is the single greatest preventable risk factor for gum disease. There has also been a direct link established between the number of cigarettes smoked per day and the chances of developing the disease, with those who smoke more than a pack per day at more than 7 times the risk for developing the disease. 

To increase the public’s awareness of the pitfalls associated with smoking, the American Cancer Association holds the Great American Smoke out each year. The goal is for everyone to quit smoking for one full day, and encourage others to do so as well. The hope is that this may be the first step in people quitting forever. 

Smokers are also at greater risk for developing a hard plaque on their teeth called calculus. The calculus can only be removed during a professional cleaning at your dentist’s office. If the calculus is not removed, it will cause your gums to pull away from your teeth. This leads to periodontal disease. 

In addition to smoking, chewing tobacco and cigars also produce the same negative effects on your teeth. If you are a tobacco user, it is important that you schedule regular checkups with your dentist. If you can quit, then that is the best way to save your teeth. 

Gum disease is treatable by either a general dentist or a periodontist. It is recommended that the least invasive method be chosen to treat periodontal disease. The treatment for gingivitis, the least severe form of gum disease, it a non-surgical treatment that includes scaling and cleaning of the teeth and root surfaces. This treatment cleans the tartar from the periodontal pockets. In most cases, this is the only treatment that is necessary, aside from ongoing maintenance to keep the disease from returning. 

If the gingivitis becomes full-blown periodontitis, then surgery is usually the next step. This step is recommended when the tissue around the teeth is not healthy and needs to be surgically corrected. The surgery aims to reduce pockets and lengthen the crown.

New Treatment Options
Periodontists are now using lasers to treat gum disease as a less invasive treatment. The laser result in less bleeding, swelling and a quicker recovery time than the other treatments available. Lasers can also be adjusted to treat both mild and advanced gum disease as well. There is also a treatment method that uses mouth trays, similar to the ones used in home teeth whitening.

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1 comment:

  1. Teaching your child how to keep her teeth white and her smile bright should start at an early age. Although this takes effort, you are building healthy habits that will last her a lifetime.

    child teeth