Welcome to the ongoing saga of my family and our attempts to eat right, exercise, lose weight and still enjoy life, while also managing the care and treatment of injuries, chronic conditions, and cancer follow-up. Convinced that a healthy lifestyle and reasonable fitness level is attainable by even the most committed of workaholics, couch potatoes, and those with health issues, join us as we explore food and wellness choices, try to put new habits in place, and hold each other accountable along the way. Healthy food can taste delicious and wellness practices need not be burdensome. At least, that is our hope, especially as we share resources with others who are working to be well.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gum Measurements & A Care Plan

Recently, I had my semi-annual dental cleaning, during which my hygienist, Tiffany measured my gums.  This time, as she was calling out the numbers to her colleague (e.g., 3, 2, 3, 2, 2, 3, 1, 2, 1), I heard a one.  A one!  I had never, ever gotten a one!  I don't think I even had a one when I was a kid.  I have absolutely no idea what I did to deserve a one, but I got one.  That got me wondering if average people, like me, know what those numbers mean.  I didn't.  So, I looked it up.

Gum measurements are performed with a tool called a periodontal probe that is calibrated in millimeters to ascertain the size of the gum pocket next to each month.  The probe is slid down next to the root of the tooth until it encounters resistance from the gum tissue.  The mark on the probe i them read, indicating the depth of the gum pocket.  For a clear illustration of what this process looks like, visit this website.  All gums have pockets, but healthy pockets neither bleed nor are they deeper than 2 mm.  So, if your hygienist calls out numbers less than three, relax.  You are doing a good job managing your gum health.

These gum measurements are keyed to stages of periodontal health/disease.  Gum pocket depths of 1-3 mm with no gum puffiness and no gum bleeding are indicative of healthy gum tissue.  If your gums bleed when they are measured, or if they are puffy in appearance but still have pocket depths of 1-3 mm, you have gingivitis (or Stage I periodontitis).  Stage II periodontitis presents with gum bleeding and gum puffiness but pocket depths of 3-5 mm, deeper than in Stage I.  Stage III gum disease begins with pocket depths greater than 5 mm;  at this point gums are not just puffy, they are swollen and beginning to recede.

So, what to do?  According to the American Dental Association, the recommended care plan to prevent gum disease includes the following steps:

1.  Brush twice daily using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
2.  Clean between teeth daily using floss or an oral irrigator.*
3.  Use a tongue cleaner daily to remove bacteria.
4.  Eat a balanced diet.
5.  Visit the dentist regularly.
6.  Reduce or eliminate activities that cause or increase periodontal disease (i.e., smoking, etc.).

Since my gum pocket depths are in the normal range (1-3 mm), I have generally healthy gums.  That said, I do have occasional gum bleeding and puffiness, so it would be wise for me to follow a dental health plan geared toward addressing gingivitis.  That is what I am doing at the moment.  I will adjust this routine depending on the results of my next dental exam (in the spring of 2012).

AM (after waking)
- brush with a tartar control toothpaste that contains fluoride
- floss with tape-type dental floss
- use dental rinse* to promote healthy gums

After eating and/or before leaving the house
- brush with regular or tartar control toothpaste
- floss with tape-type dental floss

PM (bedtime)
- brush with a tartar control toothpaste that contains fluoride
- floss with tape-type dental floss
- use dental rinse* or dry mouth rinse

Remember:  periodontal or gum disease is a chronic infection, which means that it cannot be cured.  It can only be managed by reducing/controlling the bacteria and other factors that contribute to a full-blown manifestation of the condition, usually resulting in tooth loss.  According to the American Dental Association, as of April 2010, periodontal disease affects more 80% of the adult population in the United States.  Given that statistic, chances are good that you may eventually be dealing with it in your own household, so visit your dentist today and get a care plan for you and for your family members.

*The Natural Dentist

Note:  No compensation was received for featuring any product in this post.

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