Periodontal (Gum) Disease FAQ

Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the gums or an infection of the tissue that holds your teeth in place. When brushing and flossing habits are poor they allow plaque to build up on the teeth and harden, this in turn leads to the infection of the tissue. Gum disease can vary in its impact and in more advanced stages can cause sore or bleeding gums, painful chewing, and in some cases the loss of a tooth.

There are a number of risk factors for gum disease, but smoking is the most significant. In fact, smoking can even jeopardize the success of treatment. Depending on the extent of the gum disease, treatments can range from professional deep cleaning and medications to surgery. While periodontal disease can be treated, more importantly, it can be prevented. Daily brushing and flossing, regular dental check-ups and quitting tobacco use are the best defenses against periodontal disease.

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Bad breath that won’t go away
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Tender or bleeding gums
  • Painful chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Receding gums or longer appearing teeth

As gum disease is an infection, the best way to treat is by controlling the infection in the tissue. As the severity of gum disease varies so do the treatments. As stated above, the best way to treat gum disease is by preventative measures such as daily and thorough brushing and flossing and not smoking. More invasive treatments are listed below.

Deep Cleaning (Scaling and Root Planing)

Scaling and root planing is a treatment that involves the dentist, or dental hygienist, removing the plaque from the tooth. Scaling involves scraping tartar from above and below the gum line. Root planning removes spots on the tooth’s root that contain bacteria contributing to the gum disease. A laser can also be used, in some cases, to remove plaque build up.


Medications may be used with treatment that includes scaling and root planing, but they cannot always take the place of surgery. Depending on how far the disease has progressed, the dentist or periodontist may still suggest surgical treatment.

Research studies have shown a link between individuals who have gum disease (compared to those without gum disease) and heart disease and those who have difficulty controlling blood sugar. Furthermore, a link was discovered between woman with gum disease and the delivery of preterm and low birth weight babies.

There may be other reasons people with gum disease sometimes develop additional health problems. For example, something else may be causing both the gum disease and other conditions, or it could be coincidence that gum disease and other health problems are present together.

Tooth Decay FAQ

Tooth decay is a destruction of the tooth enamel. It occurs when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as milk, pop, raisins, cakes or candy are frequently left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay.

You can help prevent tooth decay by following these tips:

  • Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaner.
  • Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacking.
  • Check with your dentist about use of supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth, and about use of dental sealants (a plastic protective coating) applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to protect them from decay.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral examination.

Absolutely not. As adults age, cavities become an adult problem as well. As individuals age it is common for the gums to recede away from the teeth. This recession causes the roots of teeth to be exposed to plaque. The area of the tooth that is exposed when gums recede is more sensitive to decay, and hence at higher risk of cavities.

Furthermore, as many adults today did not have access to fluoride as children, they may have more than the average number of fillings in their teeth than typical today. Decay around these fillings becomes common as individuals age. Aging fillings often allow for bacteria to accumulate in the fractures of the filling and the tooth, also leading to decay.

Sensitive teeth are often caused by cavities or fractures in the teeth. Sometimes, worn tooth enamel, a cracked or broken tooth or an exposed root may also be the culprit causing teeth to be sensitive. Next, exposed or receding gums can lead to teeth being sensitive.

Daily and thorough oral hygiene is the best way to ensure your gums do not recede hence preventing tooth sensitivity or pain. Therefore, it is essential to brush your teeth correctly to ensure healthy gums.

TMJ disorders FAQ

The temporomandibular joint connects the lower jaw, called the mandible, to the bone at the side of the head—the temporal bone. If you place your fingers just in front of your ears and open your mouth, you can feel the joints. Because these joints are flexible, the jaw can move smoothly up and down and side to side, enabling us to talk, chew and yawn. Muscles attached to and surrounding the jaw joint control its position and movement.

When we open our mouths, the rounded ends of the lower jaw, called condyles, glide along the joint socket of the temporal bone. The condyles slide back to their original position when we close our mouths. To keep this motion smooth, a soft disc lies between the condyle and the temporal bone. This disc absorbs shocks to the jaw joint from chewing and other movements.

The temporomandibular joint is different from the body’s other joints. The combination of hinge and sliding motions makes this joint among the most complicated in the body. Also, the tissues that make up the temporomandibular joint differ from other load-bearing joints, like the knee or hip. Because of its complex movement and unique makeup, the jaw joint and its controlling muscles can pose a tremendous challenge to both patients and health care providers when problems arise.

Although, TMJ disorders can be painful there is a lack of research in any invasive or aggressive treatments. Therefore, it continues to be recommended that patients choose the least invasive procedures that do not involve surgery or invading any of the tissue of the joint. It is also recommended, also due to the lack of research, that reversible treatments be utilized.

Self-Care Practices

The recommended practices that can be accomplished independently involve eating soft foods, applying ice to the sore area, avoiding gum chewing, stretching the jaw, reducing stress and engaging in some relaxation techniques.

Pain Medications

For some individuals who suffer from TMJ disorders, short term usage of pain medication may be helpful. It is recommended that individuals use anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. If indicated, a doctor or dentist may prescribe a stronger pain medication, muscle relaxant or anti-depressant to ease TMJ disorder symptoms.

Bite Guards

For some indivdiauls with TMJ disorders, a bite guard or stabilization splint may be recommended. The guard is a plastic devise that is fitted to sit over the upper or lower teeth. Bite guards are the most frequently utilized TMJ disorder treatment. Research in the effectiveness of bite guards are varied regarding pain relief. The guard should not increase pain. If pain does increase with use, contact your health care provider.