Gum Disease – What Me?

How Bacteria Can Enter You Gums
It is important to keep your gums clean by flossing. If bacteria starts entering the areas that protect your teeth, you can get periodontal disease.

If your gums are red and sore and/or you’ve been brushing your teeth and spitting out blood into the basin, has it not occurred to you that something no so good is starting to occur in your mouth? The thing is, denial is a powerful thing, and often you just don’t want to believe that something is not right, or if something bad is happening in front of your eyes.

I’ll give you a perfect example of denial. A few years back I’d been steadily putting on weight and had even taken to buying the next size up in clothes. The thing was that no-one mentioned it to me (probably out of fear that I’d be angry or upset) and even when I saw myself in photos, I thought the camera was playing a bit of a trick and making me look larger than I was. In all this time, we didn’t have a set of scales in the house and it wasn’t until I eventually had the courage to step on to my mother in law’s scales that I finally accepted the extra weight that I had put on – 35 lbs. to be precise! The scales couldn’t be ignored and this shocked me into going on a weight loss program.

So, what does this have to do with gum disease?

Well you too could be in a state of denial and you may even be wondering why me?

One of the most common reasons for gum disease, also called periodontal disease; more specifically, gingivitis in its earlier stages and periodontitis in the more serious stages, may be due to a failure to floss your teeth on a regular basis. However, certain conditions, such as hormonal changes during pregnancy, diabetes, chemotherapy drugs and dry mouth caused by certain prescription medications, can all exacerbate the situation. In fact, for some people, gum disease can even be genetic.

If you don’t floss your teeth, there’s a greater risk of developing gum disease; but you’re certainly not alone if you don’t floss. In fact, according to a study carried out not so long ago by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), almost forty percent of people said that they didn’t floss every day and a huge 32 percent said that they never floss. So, it’s hardly surprising that nearly 50% of US adults over the age of 30 are suffering from some form of gum disease.

Think about it for a second …..

CC G WikiMedia 091017 Floss3Flossing may seem like an inconvenience, something that you can’t be bothered with; but, it need take no more than a minute or two of your time and the savings are immense.

Not only can regular flossing save you from losing teeth due to gum disease, but it can save you a heap on expensive dental treatments too.

What are the signs of gum disease? What should you be looking for?

  • Swollen or red gums
  • Gums that feel tender or bleed
  • Bad breath that lingers
  • Loose teeth
  • Painful chewing
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Gums that are receding making teeth look longer

Healthy gums should feel firm, be pink in appearance, and not bleed when flossing. If you’ve got any of the symptoms mentioned above, then chances are you’ve got gum disease. Your dentist can confirm your fears and give you a diagnosis of gum disease using a variety of methods, including visual exams, dental x-rays and measuring the space between your teeth and gums.

Now for some good news…..

Gum disease in its early stages, known as gingivitis, can be easily cured and prevented from re-occurring simply by stepping up your oral health routine.

Periodontitis on the other hand, is a more advanced form of gum disease, which requires more treatment and, if ignored, can result in tooth loss.

People react to the news that they have gum disease in a variety of ways. Some are angry and feel they should blame their dentist for having arrived at this situation. The thing is, we’re always harping on about the importance of dental flossing, and like the old saying goes “You can take a horse to the water but you can’t make it drink”. We do all we can to encourage you to care for your teeth properly at home as well as visit us regularly, but unfortunately, we can’t get through to some folks despite our best efforts.

Others are more skeptical. “Well can’t you just give me a regular clean?” “Do I really need this deep cleaning treatment you’re talking about”.

As dentists, our job is to firstly tell you the truth and secondly to help you have the healthiest smile. If we diagnose gum disease, then we can’t and won’t carry out additional treatments which could make your condition worse, or harm you in any way. Deep dental cleaning or scaling and planning (SRP) as it’s called is not an “add on” treatment to get more money from you. It’s the necessary treatment for your diagnosis.

We’re sorry if you’re frustrated because you wanted your teeth whitened or you wanted to surge ahead with that dental implant, but until we’ve dealt with the infection and inflammation of periodontitis, then it may have to wait.

I guess what we’re trying to say is don’t give up if you’ve been diagnosed with gum disease. It is treatable and curable. You can soon improve your oral hygiene at home and many dental insurance policies will cover you for gum disease treatment. Meanwhile we can give you plenty of useful hints and tips.

So please, no more denial. Just accept your diagnosis. All we’re asking is for you to commit to improving your oral hygiene and we’ll help with the rest.

You can do it!


An Insight into the Life of a Busy Dental Hygienist

Child in Dental Chair
Working as a Dental Hygienist involves hard work and detail when with a patient

Often, when I tell people I am a Dental Hygienist they say “A what?… Oh you’re the one that cleans teeth” with a look of uncertainty on their face. This is usually closely followed by a running commentary on their last visit to the dentist.So just to put you in the picture, I’d love to share with you what I do in a normal day as a practicing dental hygienist…

Hint – It’s way more than just cleaning teeth 🙂

08.00 – My typical morning begins about 45 min prior to the arrival of my first patient. I grab the schedule for the day and over a cup of coffee, take a look at the patients’ chart. I double check their needs and review their medical/dental histories. During this quiet time, I make notes of things that need to be addressed or reviewed, with the patient and the dentist. This includes

  • Any medical concerns/allergies
  • Ongoing treatments with other medical providers
  • Patient’s current dental status and…
  • Their appointment history

Next I set up the instruments I’ll need for the first patient and make sure I have everything at hand. Finally I double check all supplies, making sure the room is well-stocked and clean.

08.30 am – Next it’s time for our team meeting. We go through the patient cases for that day and review specific treatment plans. This ensures everything flows as smooth as possible, while maintaining the highest standards of patient care. It just so happens that today one of the dental nurses has brought in some doughnuts, so we can’t resist and partake in a sugar fix – Even dental professionals have breaking points you know!

Every day is different and during a typical working day I can see a wide range of age groups and families. I can go from treating a patient will a full upper denture and dental implants to a young child losing their first baby tooth, as well as everything in between; and today is a good example…

O8.45 am – Time to bring in my first patient – It’s a regular who I see every 6 months. I take the patient’s blood pressure and answer any medical question or concerns they may have. The patient is in good dental and medical health and simply needs a scale and polish. There’s very little tartar and the appointment goes smoothly – Great start to the morning!

0920 am– Time for patient number 2 who is 5 minutes late. It’s no big deal as it’s a patient who I’ve been treating for a while so I expect routine treatment only. However it turns out this person needs an x-ray and a full dental exam, so the appointment takes longer than expected. I’m now up against it as I’m running late for my next patient.

10-35 am – I have around 70 minutes scheduled for this patient because they need 3-month periodontal maintenance, a full mouth-probe chart, a series of digital bite-wing x-rays and a dental exam. I enter all details on the computer including treatment and discuss the treatment plan with the patient.

11-35 am – Somehow I’ve managed to get myself back on track..well..almost. My next patient is a newbie or rather…someone who I haven’t treated before. With all new patients, I do whatever I can to make them feel comfortable. That usually means trying to find some common ground. In this instance, it was a recent country we’d both previously visited.

During this appointment, I take a set of radiographs and a series of intra-oral camera pictures and call the dentist in to carry out a complete oral evaluation.

12.40 pm – LUNCH TIME –  It’s that much needed break where I get time to gather my thoughts, prepare for the afternoon – Oh, and grab a sandwich – In this case, something light – chicken salad.

1-10 pm – And we’re ready to go again – This patient is just 4 years old. This time it was some dental x-rays, fluoride treatment, and a dental exam. He did great! Surprisingly, I’ve now fully caught up and are actually ahead of schedule.

2-05pm – 5.00 pm – During the afternoon my next 3 patient appointments run like clockwork. They consist of a 12 year old patient returning for sealant treatment, a middle aged man on a 3 month periodontal maintenance program, and another new patient assessment.

5-10 pm – My last patient walks out the door, so now I complete any remaining clinical documentation and ensure my area is cleaned, sterilized, and prepped for the next day.

5-30pm  Finally after a challenging but rewarding day, I clock out.

As you can see as well as cleaning teeth, I’m facilitating a dental experience that contributes to a lifetime of good overall health. So If you’re scheduled an appointment with your hygienist.. don’t worry, they can help you in more ways than you think.


Dental Tips for Parents and Their Children

Little Girl Brushing Teeth

You can keep your family’s teeth and gums healthy when appropriate preventable methods are implemented. With that said, it is important to start your prevention early, very early, when you child is only around two or three years old.

Start by familiarizing them with good habits associated with oral and dental care. Healthy habits stay with your children well into adulthood.

The following tips and guidelines are suggested in order to keep your entire family’s smiles sparkling!

Early Childhood Cavities

Early childhood cavities (ECC) is a disease that affects children between birth and 71 months. This disease is also known as baby bottle tooth decay, nursing bottle caries and night bottle mouth. ECC occurs when there is one or more decayed or missing teeth found in young children and babies. It is very painful for children and caused by many factors, including a high sugar diet, frequent snacking and frequent bottle feeding.

Preventing Early Childhood Cavities

Luckily, ECC is a highly preventable disease. It is recommended to visit your dentist after a couple of your child’s new teeth first appear. Studies show that children who have attended dental visits within the first few years of life (an early preventive dental visit) experience less dental related issues and incur lower dental related costs throughout their lives.

More ways to prevent ECC include bottle feeding your baby at regular times and always removing the bottle when the baby falls asleep. Avoid putting your baby to sleep with a bottle and avoid letting your toddler walk around with a bottle. If putting a bottle in bed with your baby is something you must do, fill the bottle with water instead. This will help prevent cavities. Introducing your baby to non-milk liquids like water is also very helpful in preventing ECC. Researches also suggest trying to introduce cups to children as they approach their first birthday and to reduce the use of a bottle and sippy cups.

Make Visiting the Dentist: a Positive Experience

Help familiarize your children with the dentist. When you schedule your own dental checkups every six months, bring your young toddler along to help familiarize him/her with the dental office. Be sure to bring your child for their checkups before their first birthday. Not only does this help with their dental health, but it helps to remove the stigma children can have about visiting the dentist’s office. If children are familiar with their dentist early, they are less likely to be afraid later in life. 

Dental Sealants

At around 6 years of age, permanent molars come in. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using a dental sealant can significantly reduce tooth decay and cavities. Sealants coat the teeth and are set with an ultraviolet light. They are usually applied to children that need extra help in preventing plaque and cavities, between ages 5 to 7. According to the American Dental Association, sealants work by “’sealing out’ food and plaque because toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves.” Dental sealants are easy and quick to apply and are also very affordable. They can last up to ten years before needing to be replaced. Speak with your dental professional to find out if sealants are a good option for your child.


Fluoride strengthens enamel making it less likely to decay. Fluoride in tap water has been seen as the single biggest advance in oral health. If your water isn’t fluoridated, let your dentist know. They might suggest putting a fluoride application on your teeth if that is the case. Most mouth washes and toothpastes contain fluoride, but you should be careful when using fluoride with your children. If your child is under two years old, the toothpaste on their toothbrush should be the size of a grain of rice. For children between the ages of two and five years old, use a pea-sized amount of paste and always help your child brush their teeth. Using too much toothpaste can cause white stains on the teeth. 

Brushing and Flossing

Before age two, your child’s teeth can be wiped with a damp cloth or a very soft brush. Be sure to help your kids brush their teeth and always supervise them until your child can brush their teeth independently, usually around age seven. When your child’s teeth start to fit closely together, between age two and six, parents should start to get their children in the habit of flossing daily. As they develop dexterity, you can help them learn to floss. Children usually develop the ability to floss on their own around age ten.


75% of all teenagers have gums that bleed, indicating possible gingivitis, according to the American Dental Hygienists Association. Gingivitis is treatable and reversible with proper care. Be sure to remind everyone in your family to brush and floss their teeth daily. Teens with braces might need to use a special toothbrush, as well as other oral hygiene tools to help clean their teeth and gums. Be sure to ask your dentist about which tools are best for your child.

Remember, early prevention is the key!

Why Dental Implants Are a Real Bargain – Honestly, It’s True!

Wasn’t it Coco Channel who said that “The best things in life are free, but the second best things are very very expensive”

While you may or may not agree with that statement, when it comes to your teeth – or rather the lack of them – getting dental implants almost certainly falls into the latter category.

Sure, they’re not on an equal footing with say a Fifth Avenue penthouse apartment, or a Norman Rockwell painting, but in dental terms, implants don’t come cheap. However, despite dropping somewhere between $2500 -$4000 per tooth, they’re still a bargain!

Controversial I know but hear me out….

The Watercooler Scenario on Implant Costs

I was standing in line at a grocery store checkout a few weeks back and overheard two women in front of me talking – Okay, so I may have been eavesdropping, but the conversation went something like this…  

First woman“You remember Sheena, right?”
Second woman – “Oh yeah, I haven’t seen her for years.”

First woman – “Well I bumped into her the other day and she looked so different.”

Second woman – “whaddya mean?”

First woman – “Well, it’s her teeth! Do you remember she was never happy with her teeth?”

Second woman – “Oh yeah, I remember. Every time she smiled, she would kinda place her hand in     front of her mouth.”

First woman –   “You’ve got it! Well now she doesn’t have to.”

Second woman – “Why? What’s she had done?”

First woman – “Apparently, she’s had those implants – You know…the ones for your teeth”

By this stage I was listening so intently I didn’t hear someone saying excuse me as they tried to squeeze past. Anyway, on with the conversation…

Second woman – “Oh yeah, I’ve heard about those.”

First woman – “You’ll never guess how much they cost her.”

Second woman – “Go on!”

First woman – “About $20,000.”

Second woman – “$20,000 Jeez!” She repeated this part in a really high voice… “I’ll tell ya, we’re in the wrong job.”

With that, they paid for their groceries and left…

Meanwhile, I’m mulling over the conversation in my head and thinking firstly….“What the heck was I doing listening in on someone else’s private conversation” but more importantly…. it hit home that the initial cost of dental implants is in fact a HUGE stumbling block for some patients. And it’s an unfortunate hurdle that many people don’t see past.

But here’s the important part….

If you consider the long-term benefits that dental implants can bring, then actually, they’re worth every single cent.

Here’s why….

The Practicality of Dental Implants

Doctor and Nurse Reviewing Dental X-Ray

Let’s imagine for one second that you went down the conventional denture route. After all, modern-day dentures look pretty realistic and feel comfortable in the mouth, so why wouldn’t you?

You spend a session having impressions taken and molds done and another session (some weeks later) getting them fitted. That’s it…2 days, new teeth. Job done!

Or is it…

Firstly there’s the cleaning… By this I mean soaking and deep cleansing. Food particles collect on dentures every time you eat, so they need regular and thorough daily cleaning in order to avoid a variety of common oral problems which plague approx 87% of denture wearers.

Secondly, there’s the problem of jaw shrinkage… conventional dentures may do a great job of replacing teeth but they can’t halt the natural bone loss process that occurs when teeth are missing. As the jaw shrinks, snug fitting dentures can become loose and uncomfortable.  

Thirdly…. There’s the issue of replacement. As the jaw continues to shrink dentures need to be regularly adjusted and eventually replaced. The typical shelf life of a conventional denture is around 10 years. That’s okay, if you’re a more senior denture wearer, but if you’re younger, then you may need to replace your denture at least once or more throughout your lifetime. These are added costs which need to be factored in.

Now take dental implants….

Sure they require an initial period of 4-9 months to complete, but that’s it. Ultimately there’s no re-adjusting, no stockpiling cleaning tablets, and no fixative (did I mention the fixative?) but most importantly… provided that patients continue to brush and floss as normal, they’ll never need replacing. So in effect you pay once and once only!

Now financially, implants are suddenly starting to sound more appealing, right?

So, the next time you hear someone talk about the cost of dental implants consider this…

What price should I place on being able to smile and eat normally again, being more self-confident and… feel happier than I have done in a long time.

How much would you be willing to pay?