Be good to your gums

February 02, 1993|By Daniel M. Amdur | Daniel M. Amdur,Staff Writer

By now, everyone has heard the litany of gum disease -- take care of it now, before it gets serious later. But not everyone knows the facts behind periodontal disease or the proper methods for getting rid of infection.

Periodontal disease occurs when a person's gums become infected by some of the scores of bacteria that commonly coat everyone's teeth. In its early stages, this condition is commonly known as gingivitis. Without treatment, a person may develop periodontitis, where the infection spreads to the bone supporting the teeth. Advanced stages of this disease frequently lead to tooth loss.

As with many potentially dangerous infections, an ounce of prevention goes a long way. According to Dr. Barry Lever, a Pikesville periodontist, the first step is plaque control.

Plaque control is a three-stage process, says Dr. Lever: understand it, identify it and remove it.

"Plaque is colonies of bacteria on the teeth," says Dr. Lever. "If the teeth aren't cleaned well, [bacteria] begin to colonize on the teeth by the gums."

One of the best ways to identify areas of plaque is to use a disclosing solution, according to Dr. Lever. Disclosing solutions, which come in liquid or chewable tablet form and are sold across the counter, turn concentrations of plaque a different color on the teeth for easy identification and removal by brushing.

Regular brushing and flossing, along with a healthy diet, are the best ways to keep gum disease away, while disclosing solutions help to identify hard-to-reach areas of the mouth that are frequently missed by the toothbrush.

Also, periodic trips to the dentist for professional cleanings are a good way to halt the spread of periodontal disease. Dentists can refer patients to periodontists for treating more serious cases, but regular dental appointments along with responsible tooth care can ensure that gum disease does not develop into a serious problem in the first place.

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