I am frequently asked questions like:

          "Doc, why are my teeth loose?"

          "I brush twice a day and use mouth wash, so why do I still have bad breath?"

          "Is it normal for my gums to bleed and hurt when I floss?"

          "Why do my teeth hurt when I bite or chew?"

If you have ever wondered the answer to these questions then this article is for you.

Gum disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the supporting structures of teeth; i.e. the gums, ligaments and bone. The bacteria that exist in all of our mouths have the potential to cause gum disease. These bacteria live in highly structured colonies in and around our gums. Our immune response to these colonies is strong and produces cells and destructive chemicals designed to kill these bacteria. Due to the highly structured nature of the bacteria colonies, our immune response is insufficient to destroy the bacteria within. The immune response, however, does result in the destruction of our supporting structures of teeth.

 The first sign of gum disease is bleeding in the gums following mild stimultaion (e.g. brushing  and flossing). This is known as gingivitis. As the disease process progresses, the gums will become bulbous and bleed even when eating. Further progression leads to destruction of supporting bone and ligament tissues. The loss of supporting bone is a condition known as periodontitis and may or may not produce pain. Once the supporting bone is lost, it is unlikely that it may be reformed making periodontitis often irreversible. If the condition is properly managed and treated before advanced stages are reached, the teeth may often be saved. Ignoring these conditions will certainly lead to eventual loss of teeth.

As bone loss progresses, the condition begins to self perpetuate; i.e. biting on loose teeth makes the teeth even more loose! I always tell my patients to imagine that their teeth are like fence posts. If you push on the post over and over again, it begins to wobble more and more. If the fence post was ten feet in ground and was now only 1 foot in the ground due to loss of the supporting soil (in our case bone), it doesn't take much force to push it loose. This is a great analogy to visualize the loss of bone and to understand why the teeth become loose.

There are many gases and other chemicals released by both the bacteria and our own cells. These chemicals are the cause of bad breath. In a mouth battling gum disease, these chemicals are increased in their production and their source is chronic. Until the gum disease is brought under control, these chemicals will continue to produce both a foul taste and odor.

Bleeding gums, loose teeth, pain when chewing and bad breath are not normal. These are serious conditions that can have a dramatic effect on quality of life. Chronic bad breath can affect us in any social situation. It may keep you from meeting that special someone or perhaps from getting that dream job you 've always wanted. Pain when eating can affect our ability to eat healthy, nutritious foods and thus affect our general health. Many people do not realize the link between gum disease and other serious health conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, premature birth, obesity, etc.). There are various levels of evidence to support the link between the conditions. There is strong evidence to support an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes in patients who suffer from gum disease. Please visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/BasinviewDentalCentre and check out the posting of Whoopi Goldberg discussing her battle with gum disease.

If you have any questions regarding gum disease or suffer from bleeding gums, bad breath, sore teeth, etc., please contact Dr. Luke Haslam at Basinview Dental Centre. Don't wait until the condition can no longer be treated!

Dr. Luke Haslam BSc, DDS

Basinview Dental Centre

Digby, NS