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The Stages of Gum Disease

June 13th, 2024

Taking care of your gums is one of the best ways to protect your smile. But sometimes, we treat our gums like an afterthought when it comes to dental care. It might surprise you to learn just how common gum disease is—and how damaging it can be for your oral health.

Surprising Fact #1:

About half of all adults have suffered or are suffering from some form of gum disease. And about half of all children do, too. As we age, the percentages jump—in fact, some studies estimate that eventually 70% of older adults will be affected by gum disease.

Surprising Fact #2:

The major cause of tooth loss in adults isn’t tooth decay or accidents or aging—it’s gum disease.

Surprising Fact #3:

Gum disease is progressive. The gingivitis that begins with a bit of redness or some minor bleeding when you brush might seem like a temporary annoyance. But when ignored, this early form of gum disease can lead to periodontitis, a serious gum condition which causes receding gums, loose teeth, bone and tissue damage, infections, and tooth loss.

Gingivitis

Gum disease begins quietly and invisibly, and it usually starts with plaque. Plaque along the gum line irritates our gum tissue. The body’s immune system responds and triggers inflammation. Gum tissue becomes swollen and red. The gums might feel tender, or bleed easily when you brush or floss.

If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, it’s time to call our Mt. Pleasant office. Dr. Mark Goedecke might recommend better brushing and flossing habits, a professional cleaning, and/or an anti-plaque treatment. At this stage, with proper care, gingivitis is reversible.

But left untreated, gingivitis can progress over time until it becomes periodontitis. Periodontitis affects not only gum tissue, but the bone and connective tissue which surround our teeth, supporting them and holding them firmly in place.

Mild Periodontitis

As plaque and tartar continue to irritate gum tissue above and below the gum line, inflammation increases, and the gums begin to pull away from the teeth. This is a problem, because the gums normally surround the tooth roots snugly, protecting them from plaque, bacteria, and other toxins.

When gum tissue pulls away, pockets are created between gums and teeth. These pockets become home to more bacteria, causing more irritation, inflammation, and infection. During this phase, the connective and bone tissue around the tooth’s roots might start to break down.

Moderate Periodontitis

As the disease progresses, pockets become deeper. The structures that hold the teeth in place continue to break down, and the teeth start to loosen. As the gums recede, tooth roots become more vulnerable to decay.

Advanced Periodontitis

When periodontitis has reached the advanced stage, there is significant loss of tissue and bone around the teeth. Teeth become looser and foul breath, pus, and pain when biting or chewing are common. Without prompt treatment, there’s a high risk of tooth loss.

Unlike gingivitis, periodontitis isn’t reversible, and requires professional care. Advanced treatments can do a lot to restore gum health:

  • Topical, time-release, or oral medications treat infection.
  • Scaling and root planing, which are non-surgical deep cleaning procedures, remove plaque and tartar above and below the gum line, and smooth tooth roots to remove bacteria and help the gum tissue reattach to the teeth.
  • Flap surgery treats more advanced gum infection, reducing pocket depth and re-securing the gums snugly around the teeth.
  • Bone grafts, gum grafts, and other regenerative procedures are available that help restore and repair tissue damaged by gum disease.

That’s good news, and there’s even better news: Because gum disease is typically triggered by plaque, it’s very preventable.

  • Brush carefully at least twice each day for at least two minutes. Don’t forget to brush along the gum line!
  • Use floss at least once each day or as directed by Dr. Mark Goedecke. If you have trouble flossing, ask us for the flossing tools and techniques that will work best for you.
  • See your dentist regularly to catch and treat early gum disease while it is still reversible.

While gum health is essential for dental health, healthy gums might mean more than just healthy teeth. Scientists are studying the potential links between gum disease and its effects on conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. Gum health should never be an afterthought. Taking care of your gums is one of the best things you can do to ensure a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Is gingivitis preventable?

June 5th, 2024

The earliest sign of gum disease is called gingivitis (sometimes called periodontal disease), and is an inflammation of the gums. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to gum tissue loss, loss of bone that supports the teeth, and eventually tooth loss. The good news is that gingivitis is easily treatable at Goedecke Family Dentistry. Better yet, gingivitis is nearly 100 percent preventable.

Gingivitis is usually caused when plaque and bacteria accumulate on the gums, generally due to poor oral hygiene. A patient with gingivitis will have red and puffy gums that will likely bleed when he or she brushes or flosses.

It is almost entirely within our patients’ power to prevent gingivitis by brushing and flossing on a daily basis. In addition to good oral health habits, regular visits to see Dr. Mark Goedecke will also help with early detection. We can often detect minor inflammation and other signs of gingivitis before it causes any discomfort or issues.

If left untreated, gingivitis will eventually progress to periodontitis, a breakdown of the tissue and bone that support the teeth. Smokers, women who are pregnant or menopausal, people with heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy or HIV infection, and people who suffer from poor nutrition are more likely to have gum disease.

To learn more about gingivitis, or if you suspect you have gingivitis, we encourage you to give us a call at our Mt. Pleasant office today!

When Snoring Becomes More Than Just Annoying

May 29th, 2024

Snoring occurs when the tissues in the throat relax enough to block part of our airways, or physical conditions such as enlarged tonsils or a deviated septum prevent air from flowing freely. This obstruction causes the tissues around the airway to vibrate, producing that familiar, unpleasant sound. But sometimes, loud, constant snoring is a sign of a condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). With OSA, the sleeper actually stops breathing for a few seconds at a time, or, in some cases, even longer. The body wakes to breathe again properly, so we move from the deep sleep we need to keep ourselves healthy mentally and physically to a lighter state of sleep or wakefulness—and this disruption of the sleep cycle can happen dozens of times an hour.

The potential problems caused by sleep apnea are many. You could suffer from daily morning headaches, sore throats, and dry mouth (which can lead to tooth and gum problems). You might find yourself moody, depressed or forgetful. Irritability and loss of libido are common consequences of sleep apnea. Any or all of these problems can make getting through each day a struggle.

Even worse, sleep apnea can lead to very dangerous situations. You could fall asleep while working, watching your children, or even driving. Sleep apnea has been linked to very serious conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. And for those who suffer from this disorder, general anesthesia or pain medication can lead to severe or even fatal consequences.

You should be examined for sleep apnea if you or a loved one notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Snoring loudly enough to disturb your sleep or the sleep of others
  • Waking up gasping for air
  • Pauses between normal breathing during sleep
  • Continual drowsiness during the day
  • Waking up with headaches, sore throats or dry mouth regularly
  • Personality changes

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, talk to Dr. Mark Goedecke at our Mt. Pleasant office. We can point you in the right direction for treatment, including the possibility of crafting an orthodontic oral appliance to maintain open airways as you sleep. But whatever treatment you and your doctors decide on, the important part is following through. Don’t let an annoying situation become a dangerous, and even life-threatening, one.

Why are my gums shrinking?

May 28th, 2024

If you’ve noticed that your teeth have appeared to be longer, you may be suffering from gum recession. This is a common problem among adults, and can result from several factors. If gum recession seems to be happening in your mouth, schedule an appointment at our Mt. Pleasant office. We will take a look and figure out the cause, and help you decide on the best treatment.

The first thing Dr. Mark Goedecke will do is take measurements of the recession to see if the cause could be periodontal disease. Based on how much attached gingiva is present on the gums, a varying amount of gum recession will be present.

The less bone support you have for your teeth, the higher the chance of tooth loss will be. If you have a high likelihood of tooth loss, it’s critical to address the problem right away.

Gum recession can also be caused by stress-related issues that lead to jaw clenching and teeth grinding in the night. This added, ongoing pressure puts extra stress on your teeth, which flexes them at the gum line.

If this happens over a long period, microscopic breaks in your enamel will cause your gum line to move away from your teeth. An occlusal guard may serve as a solution to gum recession caused by teeth grinding. Talk to Dr. Mark Goedecke about this option if you consistently wake up with jaw pain, headaches, or uncomfortable pressure on the sides of your face.

The way you brush and floss your teeth may also cause gum recession. If you’re an aggressive brusher, make sure to purchase toothbrushes labeled “soft.” It’s best to brush your teeth in a circular motion in order to sweep over all your gum lines and remove the most plaque. Generally, brushing in a straight line can leave spots of plaque that lead to periodontal disease, which is a common cause of gum recession.

There are several options for treatment of gum recession. Depending on the cause, Dr. Mark Goedecke will talk with you to decide the best treatment plan. Care may involve a deep cleaning or an antibiotic treatment. In serious cases, treatment might involve pocket-depth reduction, a soft tissue draft, or gum regeneration surgery.

These are just a few of the many potential causes of gum recession and how we can treat the problem. Unfortunately, gums do not grow back, and the consequences of ignoring this condition can be painful and time-consuming.

Please call our Mt. Pleasant office to schedule an appointment if you’ve noticed any elongating of your teeth or recurring irritation of the gums. We will work as hard as possible to help rid you of your gum recession and prevent it from getting worse in the future.