Spring has officially sprung! To go with the longer days, spring also brought with it longer wait times at your favorite sidewalk cafe and the dreaded (or loved!) tradition of spring cleaning. This year, instead of cleaning parts of your home no one will ever see, why not take a closer look at the one part of yourself everyone notices right away: your smile.
According to the periodontists at
“More than one in three Americans over the age of 30 have advanced gum disease, which is the number one cause of tooth loss,” says Dr. Diamond, dispelling the myth that only “old” people need to see a periodontist. “Luckily, treatment methods don’t live up to the hype, either. Thanks to advances in laser technology, we can treat gum disease with very little pain in almost every patient.”
So, if you’ve been unsuccessful at getting that “perfect” smile, no matter how many times you whitened your teeth, it’s probably time to get to a periodontist.
If you fall into any of the following categories, then make haste, because as Dr. Diamond and his partner, Dr. Mark Schlesinger explains, you are at high risk for gum disease.
- Pregnant women are at high risk for periodontal disease, which has been shown to threaten unborn babies. Hormonal changes wreak havoc on the gums - a fact especially dangerous during pregnancy. About half of all pregnant women experience pregnancy gingivitis. Some go on to develop advanced periodontal disease, which has been known to affect the health of an unborn baby. Periodontal disease during pregnancy has long been linked to preterm and low birth weight babies and preeclampsia, but a recent report for the first time directly linked pregnancy gingivitis to a stillborn child.
- Doctor’s Orders: Women who are pregnant, or who are planning to become pregnant, should include a periodontist on the list of doctors they visit to help guarantee the safest pregnancy and healthiest outcome possible. But, Dr. Diamond warns, since hormonal fluctuations aren’t exclusive to pregnancy women are at high risk for periodontal disease at other stages of their lives, too. “Young women going through puberty and women who use oral contraceptives are also at an increased risk for periodontal disease. They should incorporate periodontal care into their health care routine in order to avoid losing teeth and developing other health problems as a result of advanced gum disease.
- Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. As if there aren’t enough health-related reasons to abstain from smoking cigarettes, the American Academy of Periodontology says the use of tobacco products is one of the most important contributing factors to the development and progression of periodontal disease. Smokers are much more likely than nonsmokers to have deep pockets between their teeth and gums, which are often the hallmarks of gum disease, as well as loss of bone and tissue that support the teeth. Since smoking is known to “mask” symptoms, smokers often don’t exhibit the telling signs of gum disease, making it even more important for them to see a periodontist.
- Doctor’s Orders: Dr. Diamond and Dr. Schlesinger hope the threat tobacco products pose to oral health strengthens smokers’ motivation to quit, but those who continue to smoke absolutely must see a periodontist regularly to avoid major complications from gum disease. “Tooth loss is generally the result of damage done to the tooth’s supporting structures, and there is no one cause of damage to the gums more significant than tobacco,” says Dr. Schlesinger. “Smokers require the ongoing care of a periodontist, which offers them the best chance to detect fun disease in its earliest stages, and to salvage as much of their oral health as possible."
- Gum disease and systemic illnesses go hand in hand. The relationship between periodontal disease and systemic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease is profound. Those with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than those without it, and periodontal disease also makes it even more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar. In addition, the gravity of the link between gum disease and cardiovascular disease led leaders of both specialties to join forces. In recent concurrent issues of The American Journal of Cardiology and Journal of Periodontology cardiologists and periodontists were called on to assist one another: cardiologists are being asked to look into their patients’ oral health and periodontists are asked to inquire into their patients’ heart health.
- Doctor’s Orders: Dr. Diamond and Dr. Schlesinger are adamant that patients with systemic illnesses, most notably diabetes and heart disease, take their oral care very seriously. “These patients in particular cannot afford to neglect their gum health. It’s important that they act as advocates of their health and rather than wait for a referral, if they haven’t already received one, make an appointment with a periodontist themselves,” urges Dr. Diamond.
Even if you don’t fall into one of these categories, your mouth can use periodic once-overs from a periodontist to ensure your smile FAR outlasts this season’s harem pants.