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Oral Health Maintenance and Gum Disease

Periodontal Assessment

Gums cover and protect the bone that supports your teeth. This bone is like a foundation that supports a building – if the foundation becomes weakened, the building may fall down, even though there is nothing wrong with the building itself. Similarly, if the gums are not cared for, the bone underneath can become infected and damaged. You can lose your teeth if the bone is not strong enough to hold your teeth in place – even if you’ve never had a cavity in your life!

Most people have a chance of experiencing gum disease at some time during their lives. Gum disease is caused by plaque – a sticky colourless film of bacteria that is constantly forming on your teeth. Removing plaque from your teeth prevents the formation of bacterial toxins, which attack gum tissue, causing irritation and disease, which can lead to the destruction of bone holding the tooth in place and subsequent tooth loss. Factors such as stress, diabetes, smoking, diet and the state of the body’s immune system can also trigger gum disease.

An oral health therapist is a highly trained person who specialises in the detection, treatment and prevention of gum disease. During your periodontal assessment, your dental hygienist will assess the state of your gums and oral hygiene and recommend appropriate treatment and products for your specific condition. The best protection against gum disease is good, regular oral hygiene, so your dental hygienist will also discuss proper flossing and brushing techniques to assist in the prevention of gum disease.

During your comprehensive periodontal assessment appointment the following will occur:

  • A 50 minute initial consultation with the hygienist to assess the condition of the gums and determine treatment.
  • Oral examination
  • Periodontal chart
  • Removal of calculus
  • Fluoride application
  • Bitewing X-rays
  • Intra-oral photographs
  • OPG X-ray (if required)
  • Dental health education

Other diagnostic services that may be undertaken

  • Disclose and oral hygiene instruction
  • Saliva screening test
  • Pulp testing
  • Extra-oral photographs

Once an assessment of your gums has been made, your hygienist may recommend further appointments for periodontal treatment or establish with you an ongoing routine care procedure.

Your assessment will lead to a determination of the health of your gums. The following is a general guide only.

Healthy

If your gums are pink and tissue is healthy and firm, there is minimal to no plaque, building and calculus build up then your gums are in excellent condition and you will need no more than routine care every six or twelve months, as directed by your therapist

Healthy Gums

Healthy gums are light pink in colour (darker for people with darker complexions), are stippled, much like the surface of an orange, are not tender or swollen and do not bleed when brushing or flossing.

Keeping Your Gums Healthy

Prevention and detection are your best defence against gum disease. Brush and floss daily. Visit your hygienist/dentist on a regular basis and follow your hygienist/dentist instructions for any special needs.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums characterized by changes in colour, form, position, surface appearance and presence of bleeding and/or exudes tenderness upon probing, bad breath or bad taste, probing depths of 4mm and less.

Early Periodontitis

Light generalized or localized heavy calculus. Progression of gum inflammation into the deeper periodontal structures and bone, with slight bone loss, pocket depth 3-4mm with slight loss of connective tissue attachment and possible, slight loss of bone evident on films.

Moderate Periodontitis

Presence of generalized moderate to heavy calculus. Progression of gum inflammation into deeper periodontal structures and bone, with increased bone loss, pocket depth 4-6mm with slight loss of connective tissue attachment and possible slight loss of bone evident on films.

Advanced Periodontitis

A more advanced state of Periodontitis with increased destruction of the periodontal structures with noticeable loss of bone support, possibly accompanied by an increase in tooth mobility, abscesses may develop, gums recede, possible drifting of teeth, horizontal and angular bone loss, pockets 6mm plus.

A dental hygienist is a very skilled, intelligent and educated practitioner. They are clinically experienced to give the dentist an extra set of eyes, hands and brainpower to help make the final formal diagnosis for the patient.

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