I used to come to the dentist every 6 months, but now my hygienist tells me that I need to come in 4 times a year. Why?
Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is dentistry’s major foe today. Many studies have been done in the past several years and are ongoing about the links of gum diseases to systemic disorders such as diabetes, depression, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, and pre-mature birth weights. At this point, there appears to be a significant correlation with the health of the gums and these disorders, but the actual relationship is unclear. Gum diseases, which include gingivitis and periodontitis (“pyorrhea”), affect at least 80% of the American population and cause tooth loss, pain, and bad breath, as well. In fact, it is the major cause of tooth loss in adults.
Treatment for periodontal diseases usually involves thorough debridement of the teeth, roots, and gums with or without the use of numbing agents. Several different types of antibiotics may be used during the course of treatment to kill the germs that cause gum disease. In the worse cases, referral to a specialist is sometimes needed to surgically alter the gums to make them more cleansible. Once initial treatment of gum disease is completed, maintenance is critical to long-term success.
Current research suggests that professional ultrasonic debridement of periodontal pockets every 90 days in conjunction with excellent home hygiene is effective in controlling gum disease. Through attentive monitoring, any aggressive disease processes can be addressed in a very timely manner to prevent further destruction. During these maintenance visits, localized antibiotic therapy can also sometimes be used to control stubborn sites.
This is why it is now common practice to “step up” hygiene visits. Because information about gum diseases is new and forthcoming and because gum disease can begin at any point in time, it’s not uncommon for your dentist to “switch gears” and initiate more aggressive therapy than “just a cleaning.” Since much of this information about gum disease is relatively new, not all dentists are up-to-date when it comes to gum disease therapy. Furthermore, many dentists do not choose to treat gum disease for very valid reasons. If you have any of the signs like bleeding gums, bad breath, loose teeth, or severe gum recession, you might want to discuss referral to someone who treats gum disease with your dentist.