Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS December 21, 2015
In Part 1, I gave you an idea how many people have gum disease. Its consequences to health are significant. I also explained how you could tell if you had this disease. In this Part, you will read the differences between healthy gums and unhealthy gums. You also will learn how a dentist can determine if you have this infection.
What’s The Difference Between Health And Disease?
When the gum is healthy with no disease, it is sealed around the tooth like a tight turtleneck sweater around your neck. The gum protects the underlying jawbone that holds your teeth in place.
In gingivitis (the early stage of gum disease), the gums usually become red or bleed easily. If the infection moves under the gums, the gum seal breaks down, and the gum separates from around the tooth just like a turtleneck sweater would not stay up around your neck if it were stretched out. When this infection begins to damage the underlying bone around the roots of the teeth (called periodontitis), the disease can become a problem throughout your body.
If you had bleeding gums in the past, but this bleeding has gone away, you may feel like your gums are healthy now. You may think that the problem has resolved by itself. Unfortunately, the problem may have progressed deeper under the gums without you knowing it.
How To Determine If There Is Disease?
The best way to determine if you have gum disease is to have a dentist or periodontist use a gum ruler (called a periodontal probe) to measure how deep the space is between the gum and the tooth. This measured space is called a gum pocket. Think about a gum pocket like a pocket in a jacket. The depth of the gum pocket would be like the distance your hand went into your jacket pocket until the tip of your longest finger stopped where the pocket ended. These measurements are usually taken around every tooth in your mouth. Healthy depths of gum spaces would usually measure between 1 to 3 millimeters. If pockets were deeper than 5-6 mm, you might have advancing periodontitis.
In addition, the dentist should check if the gum had receded around any teeth or if the teeth were loose. Also, the dentist should take specific x-rays to show the bone around the tooth roots.
In Part 3 of the series, I outline the obvious and not-so-obvious causes of this infection as well as my treatment for my patients combining natural and traditional treatment protocols.