Periodontal Disease and How Your Hygienist Can Help by Kim Varian RDH

In celebration of National Dental Hygiene Month, it seems only fitting to bring up the subject of periodontal disease.  As a hygienist at Madison Smile Solutions, I get to go to battle for my patients, stepping up to the front line.

Being told that you have periodontal disease is not an easy thing to hear. There are a lot of diseases that have certain stigmas attached to them and this disease is a big one. People become offended. They think you are making judgements on their ability to brush their teeth. My response to my patients is “You don’t feel bad when the doctor tells you that you have strep throat.”

If your scalp bled every time you brushed your hair, you would likely consult with your doctor immediately. Bleeding gums from brushing your teeth shouldn’t be any different.

Your gums may be sick

Periodontal disease is a lot like strep throat. It’s a bacterial infection, which means that you have to encounter the bacteria to develop the disease in the first place. I’m routinely told “I’ve got my mom’s bad teeth”. That’s partly true. You caught your mom’s bacteria. The bacteria have to come from varied places. Be careful who you kiss. Don’t put your toothbrush in a cup in the bathroom with the rest of the family. Yuck! In this sense, the bacteria involved in periodontal disease get transferred from person to person. Most of us have been exposed to the deadly dozen bacteria that are involved in the disease process. Our bodies decide how much of this they can handle. This is where genetics come into play.

Chronic Pain and Periodontal Disease

Everyone has a built in inflammatory process. It is a part of our internal hardwiring. We inherit this process through our DNA. If your DNA is faulty, you may find that you have more pain issues, inflammatory disease and even periodontal disease. Your body may be naturally less able to fight off the bacteria than the next person. It’s really just this simple.  You have one inflammatory response system. If it is being stimulated by multiple sources (diabetes, allergies, weight, arthritis, fibromyalgia, periodontal disease,etc..) the inflammatory response multiplies.

Don’t floss…..what?!

We’ve all heard that nasty little rumor about the federal government removing floss from its guidelines. The problem with that is that we know food gets stuck in between our teeth all the time. Don’t believe me? Just floss and see what comes out! Our bodies produce mucous like proteins that need to be flushed out. These proteins combine with the food stuck in between our teeth and act as an all you can eat buffet for the invading bacteria. The bacteria use this food as fuel to go forth and multiply.

Fixing your Gum Disease problem

In conjunction with your dentist, your dental hygienist keeps tabs on the natural space around each and every tooth. Your dental team monitors the bone quality on those wonderful annual x-rays they take. If the space starts to change and the bleeding becomes normal for you; your hygienist will roll up their sleeves and go to battle. Your gums are no longer healthy and need extra attention. The bacteria are able to enter your entire body via the blood supply to your gums. While we can never fully rid the body of these bacteria, we can get them under control. If the disease seems like it needs extra attention, we can do saliva testing to determine what bacteria you have in your mouth, how high the levels are and if specific antibiotics are needed as part of the treatment.

We need to attack bacteria in an area that is infected. To make you comfortable, we use a little local anesthetic.

Dental Laser Beams

We can clean out the infected areas on and around the teeth with our dental hygiene instruments and ultrasonic handpieces. However, much like an untreated wound anywhere else on the body, the tissue gets very raw and very irritated. It creates the perfect environment for bacteria to hide.  We need to clean the tissue too. How do we do that? Our office has a highly educated hygiene team that has all been certified to use the Diode Dental Laser. After removing any deposits we find, we use this laser to help zap the bacteria that have burrowed themselves deep into your gum tissue. This treatment also helps to reduce inflammation and induce healing. Most often, this reduces the need for antibiotic treatment.

Dental Cleaning Maintenance

Once we get the disease under control with the gum treatments and laser therapy, we need to see you more often to keep the disease under control. It is not uncommon to need to see your dental hygienist four times per year to keep the bacteria in check. Periodontal disease is like diabetes as there is no cure. Also like diabetes, your dental team can help you manage your disease and help keep it under control. We will need your help keeping things as clean as possible at home to ensure the best possible results.

Dental Hygienist/Gum specialist

So in celebration of Dental Hygiene Month, I’ll give this shout out to my fellow Dental Hygienists.   Most people do not realize that the dental hygienist has not only been specially trained to help manage your periodontal disease, they also screen for oral cancer and help the dentist identify problem areas.   They have a college degree, have to pass licensure exams by the state, are trained in CPR and need to maintain continuing education in order to be able to renew their license.

Your dental hygienist is always happy to answer any questions you may have regarding your care. At Madison Smile Solutions we believe your mouth is a window to your wellness.  If you have questions after reading this blog, please don’t hesitate to ask this dental hygienist or call 608-227-7000 to schedule your appointment.