Dear Dr. Reichwage,
I only go to my dentist when my teeth bother me. Now my dentist says I need to see a gum specialist for gum disease. My gums don’t hurt or bleed, except when he uses that measuring thing. I think he causes the bleeding and my gums are fine. Elizabeth K., New Haven
You are fortunate your dental team measures the pocket depths at the base of your teeth. Each tooth has 6 pocket sites (called the “sulcus”) to measure.
The sulcus measurements, combined with oral x-rays, indicate if you have periodontal disease and tell an important story about your health.
First, your dentist or hygienist does NOT cause the bleeding. The probe doesn’t break the skin, but it does go beyond where your toothbrush or floss can reach.
At the base of each pocket, the probe is coming into contact with an ulcerated area, caused by bacteria. These bacteria give off toxins that build plaque. Plaque hardens into calculus, which brushing or flossing cannot remove. ONLY a dental professional can remove it.
As calculus accumulates, bacteria residing in it keep your tissue inflamed. Toxins from the bacteria can accumulate in your blood stream and suppress your immune system, significantly increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and low birth-weight babies.
Heed your dentist’s advice, Elizabeth: see the specialist! Excellent new treatment options are available, including bacteria-destroying laser therapy.
Periodontal disease is at epidemic proportions in America, and in some form, affects 80-90% of us. Currently incurable, symptoms may include:
pocket measurements beyond 3 mm, bleeding, puffy and/or sensitive gums, gums pulling away from the teeth, a bluish-red gum color (healthy gums are pink and stippled like an orange peel), bone loss, bad breath, bad taste, boils, abcesses, longer-looking, loose or shifting teeth. Or, you may not exhibit any symptoms!
Research shows that, for most periodontal patients, disease control requires re-treatment every 2-3 months. Also, regular dental visits catch or eliminate other problems. “An ounce of prevention….”is still the best dental medicine.
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