Psychological research has proven that we are naturally drawn to people who smile. Smiles can lower blood pressure, act as stress relief, and improve your mood. A smile signals friendliness and happiness – generally the opposite of what we consider dangerous. But did you realize your bright smile could be hiding something dangerous to your health?
“It’s estimated that 80% of US adults – even those with beautiful smiles – have some level of periodontitis, known as gum disease,” says Dr. Michael Thrasher of Hillcrest Dental Care, an active dental health advocate in the Waco/Central Texas area.
Periodontal disease has been linked to serious systemic diseases including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and certain cancers. Even erectile dysfunction, infertility and pre-term births have links back to oral health. Despite these serious issues, most American adults have gum disease and don’t even realize it. “We call gum disease a ‘silent’ disease because the symptoms are surprisingly mild for the damage it can cause,” Dr. Thrasher says.
What Exactly is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is an infection in the gums around your teeth. If it is not treated early, the disease progresses until it ends up destroying the bone around the roots of teeth, enduing in tooth loss. Gum disease, not tooth decay, is the leading cause of tooth loss in the United States.
What Are the Signs I Should Look for?
Some of the signs to look for including bleeding gums, swollen puffy gums, and maybe bad breath. Gum disease can be treated in early stages, but too often patients don’t realize the signs of gum disease because there isn’t any pain. Regular dental check-ups, including a periodontal probing, are a critical part of routine oral health care. Once you’ve lost teeth, particularly if you lose too many teeth, the options are limited to either the embarrassment and inconvenience of dentures, or even more expensive treatment to correct or restore the missing teeth.
My Breath and Teeth are Fine! Wouldn’t My Primary Care Doctor Tell Me if I Had an Issue?
Right now, we are still learning so much about the oral systemic connection – the impact that the health of the mouth has on total body health. Medical and dental communities are starting to work together, but there is a long way to go. Generally your primary care doctor leaves your oral health up to your dentist, just another reason why regular dental visits are so important.
What is Periodontal Treatment Like?
“The latest technology in treating gum infection is lasers,” says Dr. Thrasher. I introduced this approach to the central Texas area about 10 years ago. Treating gum infection with a procedure called LANAP, which is laser gum surgery, is probably the most exciting thing that we’re doing right now because 80% of the population has some form of gum infection. Two out of three of those have some gum infection so severe that they’re losing the bone around the roots of their teeth.”
“The beautiful thing is we can treat that with a specific laser, the Periolase MVP-7, and we don’t have to do what we call, ‘cut and sew,’ so no more stitches. It’s much more patient-friendly, more comfortable for the patient, a better post-operative experience and we’re getting great results. It’s even gotten, now, to the point where we’re regenerating bone with the Periolase, the only FDA-cleared laser for gum surgery that is backed with scientific research. If I had to pick one thing in dentistry that’s really changed my practice, the laser is the one.”
But I’m Scared of the Dentist!
Today’s dentistry doesn’t have to hurt. Hillcrest Dental Care is known for truly comfortable dentistry. Their experts in sedation dentistry use advanced technology and minimally invasive treatment approaches like the LANAP protocol that has shorter healing times. They have created an environment that will make you love coming to the dentist regardless of your past experiences. Among their services, they can:
- Eliminate any dental pain you’re experiencing, including jaw pain
- Prevent potential dental issues from harming your smile
- Save and protect any of your damaged natural teeth or gums
- Provide you with brand-new teeth, sometimes in one day
- Beautify your smile