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The Stages of Gum Disease

January 24th, 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 Milford, NE office. Dr. Janna Spahr and Dr. Jeff Spahr 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. Janna Spahr and Dr. Jeff Spahr. 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.

Chewing Gum: Fact and Fiction

January 10th, 2024

Remember all the things your parents would tell you when you were growing up to scare you away from doing something? Like how lying might make your nose grow, misbehaving meant you wouldn’t get money from the tooth fairy, and swallowed chewing gum would build up in your stomach and stay there for years?

Maybe that last one stayed with you well beyond your teens, and occurred to you every time you accidentally (or purposely) swallowed a piece of gum. We don’t blame you. It’s a scary thought.

But is it true?

We hate to take the fun out of parental discipline, but swallowing a piece of chewing gum is pretty much like swallowing any other piece of food. It will move right through your digestive system with no danger of getting stuck for months, let alone seven years.

This doesn’t mean you should start swallowing all your gum from now on, but if it happens accidentally now and then, there’s no need to panic.

Another common gum myth is that sugar-free gum can help you lose weight. Although it is preferable to choose sugar-free gum over the extra-sweet variety, no studies have show that sugar-free gum will help you lose weight.

If you pop a piece of gum in your mouth after dinner to avoid dessert, it could help you avoid eating a few extra calories every day. But the consumption of sugar-free gum without any other effort will not help you shed pounds.

 If you really enjoy chewing gum, we strongly encourage you to select sugarless gum, because it lowers your risk for cavities. Many brands of sugarless gum contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that can, in fact, help fight bacteria that cause cavities and rinse away plaque.

So if you can’t kick the gum habit altogether, sugar-free is definitely the way to go!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, feel free to contact Dr. Janna Spahr and Dr. Jeff Spahr at our Milford, NE office.

The Most Common Causes of Gum Disease

January 3rd, 2024

Unless you're aware of the signs and symptoms of gum disease and how it's caused, it's possible that you may have unknowingly developed it. Often painless, gum disease -- or periodontal disease -- becomes progressively more serious when left untreated. As you learn more about the common causes of gum disease, you'll be better-equipped to maintain the best oral health possible.

Gingivitis & Periodontitis: Common Causes of Gum Disease

  • Bacteria & Plaque. Bacteria in the mouth creates a sticky film over the teeth. Good hygiene practices help remove the bacteria and the plaque they cause. When plaque is not removed, it develops into a rock-like substance called tartar. This can only be removed by a dental professional.
  • Smoking & Tobacco. If you're a smoker or use tobacco, you face a higher risk of developing gum disease. Additionally, tobacco use can lead to stained teeth, bad breath, and an increased risk of oral cancers.
  • Certain Medications. Some medications that are taken for other health conditions can increase a person's risk of developing gum disease. If you take steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, certain cancer therapy medications, or oral contraceptives, speak to Dr. Janna Spahr and Dr. Jeff Spahr about how to maintain healthy gums.
  • Medical Conditions. Certain medical conditions can impact the health of your gums. For instance, diabetics face an increased risk of gum disease due to the inflammatory chemicals present in their bodies. Always talk to our team about other health conditions to ensure we take that into account when treating you.

Take a Proactive Stance

Good oral hygiene practices and regular visits to our Milford, NE office can help you eliminate or reduce the risks of developing gum disease. A thorough cleaning with your toothbrush and dental floss should take about three to five minutes. Brush your teeth a minimum of twice per day and floss at least once each day. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be ready to prevent gum disease.

Do adults need fluoride treatments?

December 28th, 2023

Many dentists and hygienists recommend fluoride treatments for their adult patients. You might ask yourself, “Do I really need a fluoride treatment? I thought those were just for my kids.” After all, most insurance plans cover fluoride treatments only up to the age of 18.

What you need to know as a dental consumer is that studies have shown topical fluoride applications performed by a dental professional create a significant benefit for adults who have moderate to high risk for cavities.

There are several circumstances that warrant extra fluoride protection among adults. Many prescription medications reduce saliva flow or otherwise create dry mouth. A reduction in saliva increases cavity risk.

Adults often experience gum recession, which exposes part of the root surface of teeth. These areas are softer than the hard enamel at the top of the tooth, which makes them more susceptible to decay.

In addition, adults often get restorative work such as crowns or bridges. Fluoride can help protect the margins of these restorations, ultimately protecting your investment.

Today many people opt for orthodontic treatment (braces) as adults. Braces make it more challenging for patients to maintain good oral hygiene. Just ask your kids! Fluoride can keep the teeth strong and cavity-free even with the obstacle of orthodontic appliances.

Have you had a restoration done within the last year due to new decay? If you have, that puts you at a higher risk for cavities. Fluoride treatments are a great way to prevent more cavities in patients who are already prone to them.

How is that flossing coming along? You know you should floss daily, but do you? If your oral hygiene is not ideal, fluoride could be just the thing to keep your neglect from leading to cavities between your teeth.

Fluoride can also help with the growing problem of sensitive teeth. Diets high in acidic foods and beverages, general gum recession, and increased use of whitening products all tend to produce sensitive teeth. Fluoride treatments re-mineralize tooth enamel and reduce that sensitivity.

Patients who undergo radiation treatment for cancer also benefit from topical fluoride applications. Radiation damages saliva glands, thus greatly reducing the flow of saliva. Saliva acts as a buffer against the foods we eat and beverages we drink. Once again, less saliva greatly increases the risk of cavities.

If one or more of these conditions applies to you, consider requesting a topical fluoride treatment. Be sure to ask Dr. Janna Spahr and Dr. Jeff Spahr at your next appointment whether you might benefit from a topical fluoride application.

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