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Periodontal Disease Myths Explained

There are many myths associated with periodontal disease. Let us debunk some of them here.

I do not have cavities so I cannot have gum disease.
The mouth contains many types of bacteria, some healthy and some harmful. The main bacteria that causes tooth decay is called Streptococcus mutans – a gram positive type of bacteria. The bacteria mainly responsible for periodontal disease are gram-negative anaerobic bacteria and may include A. actinomycetemcomitans, P. gingivalis, and P. intermedia. Gram negative bacteria have a protective membrane surrounding them, making them more resistant to antibiotics and so can be more harmful and harder to treat. The fact that an individual does not have tooth decay does not mean they will not suffer from this in the future. It also does not make them immune to periodontal disease. Studies have shown some individuals can be more genetically vulnerable to certain diseases. Good oral health at home and regular visits to the dentist will play a huge part in preventing dental problems.

Having gum disease means I will lose my teeth.
There are different levels of gum disease: gingivitis, a mild inflammation that is reversible with a good, consistent oral health routine and periodontitis, more advanced disease resulting in bone loss. If not treated, gingivitis can progress into periodontitis and if periodontitis is not treated in the less severe stages, tooth loss can occur. This is because the bone supporting the teeth may be lost to such an extent that the tooth affected would need to be removed. There are effective treatments available if signs and symptoms of disease are spotted and tackled early. If the prognosis is poor and teeth need to be removed, there are also effective restorative options to replace the missing teeth.

Bleeding gums during pregnancy is normal.
The hormone progesterone produced during pregnancy can increase the susceptibility to inflammation and bleeding gums. In most cases this is mild gingivitis and will eventually settle down after the birth with good consistent home care.

Complications can arise if gingivitis is not managed properly and the condition develops into more severe periodontal disease. Studies have shown links to gestational diabetes, growth restrictions, low birthweight babies and premature birth. If any signs of inflammation are noticed it’s important to seek professional advice. As mentioned, a good home care routine and regular dental visits can keep oral disease under control.

Bad breath can be an indicator of gum disease.
One of the signs and symptoms of gingivitis and periodontal disease is bad breath and a foul taste in the mouth. This is due to the build-up of plaque – a sticky colourless substance made up of food particles, saliva, and bacteria. This can form a coating on the teeth and oral tissues, particularly the gumline and spaces in-between the teeth and can cause a bad smell and taste. Bad breath can also be caused by consuming spicy and strong smelling food and drinks, smoking, conditions including acid-reflux or other gastro problems, bulimia, tonsilitis, medications with a side effect of dry mouth, and certain diets. A visit to a dental professional will help with diagnosis and advice or treatment can be given. A referral to the GP may be needed if the cause is not oral.

I have diabetes. Will I get gum disease?
Individuals with diabetes have a higher risk of developing periodontal disease. Increased blood sugar levels damage blood vessels and reduce the nutrient and oxygen supply to the oral tissues. Mouth infections including periodontal disease will heal less successfully. When diabetes is poorly controlled periodontal disease is more likely to become more severe.

People who have gum disease do not brush their teeth.
A common misconception is that individuals who suffer from gum disease do not brush their teeth at all. The problem in many cases is that the plaque removal is not effective enough. When bacterial plaque is left to collect around the gum line this can cause inflammation and in more severe cases, destruction of bone and tooth loss.  There is a technique to brushing teeth and removing plaque adequately and these are different for a manual toothbrush and electric toothbrush. Your dental professional can show you how to use your brush and demonstrate techniques specific to your needs.

Gum disease does not affect overall health.
The mouth is the gateway to the body. Many conditions of the body can manifest in the mouth and when the mouth is unhealthy, this can affect other systems in the body. There have been many studies to indicate the systemic links between periodontal disease and other inflammatory diseases of the body. These include: Diabetes: chronic inflammation of the gums reduces the body’s ability to control blood sugar and insulin. This enables infections to grow, including gum infections. Studies show that well controlled diabetes reduces the severity of periodontal disease and vice versa. Heart disease: smoking, poor diet, alcohol, lack of exercise and weight gain cause blood vessel inflammation. Less blood travels from the heart round the body, which raises blood pressure. There is also a risk that fatty plaque can break away from blood vessel walls and travel to the heart or brain, causing heart attack or stroke. Low birth weight: there has been research done into the effects of bacterial infection on foetus development and studies have shown links between periodontal disease and premature labour.

Treatment for gum disease is painful.
There are different types of treatments for periodontal disease. Some are more invasive than others but in most cases where appropriate, local anaesthetic will be given to make the patient comfortable during the procedure. The gums can feel sore afterwards but over the counter painkillers are usually sufficient to ease any discomfort. Most patients can return to work and their normal routine straight after treatment.

Once teeth are lost, the only treatment options are bridges or dentures.
Bridges, dentures, and implants are all options available to replace teeth lost through periodontal disease, trauma, injury or decay. The best option depends on the placement of the missing tooth, the condition of the surrounding teeth and bone support and of course the budget of the patient. All these factors would be considered during a consultation with your dentist.

Because gum disease is a bacterial infection, antibiotics can be used to treat it.
Studies have shown that antibiotics can be a helpful adjunct when treating gum disease. But there is worldwide concern about antibiotic resistance due to overprescribing of antibiotics, and a fear that antibiotics may become ineffective at treating some life-threatening illnesses in the future. Surgical and non-surgical options are available along with good oral care at home. Be sure to follow the guidance of your dental professional.

I smoke and my gums do not bleed – so I do not have a problem.
Bleeding is one of many signs of gum disease, but just because the gums are not bleeding disease may still be present. Smoking inhibits the blood circulation to the oral tissues and can mask this sign of gum disease. Smoking is also a huge risk factor of oral cancer. It is important to visit the dentist regularly so that other checks can be made to spot any signs of problems, such as bone loss, bad breath, loose teeth, infection, and bleeding during the examination.

Hopefully this has helped clarify some of the common myths related to periodontal disease. But ultimately, regular visits to the dentist can ensure oral and general health is managed effectively.

If you’re concerned about gum disease or would like more information, please call us on 020 3411 7735 to speak with our friendly team or fill out our contact form.