Special Considerations for People with Gum Disease in Dental Care

Only professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar, which is why it is essential to visit the dentist regularly. There are several risk factors for gum disease, but smoking is the most important one. Gingivitis can be managed and treated with good oral hygiene and regular professional cleaning. More severe forms of periodontal disease can also be successfully treated, but may require more extensive treatment such as deep cleaning of the root surfaces of the teeth below the gums, medications that are prescribed to be taken orally or placed directly under the gums, and sometimes corrective surgery. If any member of your family has gum disease, you may have a higher risk of developing it.

You may need more checkups and cleanings to prevent gum disease. Periodontitis, also known as gum disease, is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue surrounding the teeth. Without treatment, periodontitis can destroy the bone that supports your teeth. This can cause teeth to loosen or cause tooth loss. People with disabilities often have special dental care needs.

For example, they are more likely to have gum disease than people without disabilities. They are also more likely to have missing teeth. Conditions that may require special consideration when providing dental care include cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, seizure disorders, visual and hearing impairments, and learning disabilities. These include the gum (or gums), bone, and supporting ligaments that connect bone to teeth (PDL). The American Heart Association states that there is currently not enough evidence to show that periodontal disease increases the risk of heart disease or stroke, or that treating gum disease can help prevent these heart conditions. The local dental society and some patient advocacy organizations (such as Autism Speaks) may have lists of dentists who specialize in caring for people with disabilities. Periodontitis and heart disease share common risk factors (smoking, older age, diabetes), but it's not yet clear if having one condition increases the risk of developing the other (see the Complications section of this report).

Bacteria from gum disease and tooth decay can trigger the same factors in the immune system that cause premature dilations and contractions. According to the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research, up to 80 percent of American adults have some type of periodontal (gum) disease. In its most severe form, called periodontitis, the gums can detach from the tooth, bone can be lost, and the teeth can loosen or even fall out. In cases of excessive gingival recession, the periodontist may perform a gum (gingival) graft to cover the exposed root area. He led a pilot program in which dentists performed HbA1c tests to detect diabetes in the office and, more recently, drafted the request to the Code Committee of the American Dental Association to assign a code for dentists to perform HbA1c blood tests at the point of care in dental offices. According to the American Academy of Periodontics, treatment for periodontal disease should focus on achieving oral health in the least invasive and most cost-effective way. If you are taking a bisphosphonate medication such as alendronate (Fosamax), talk to your dentist about the possible risks of dental procedures (such as extractions and implants) affecting your jaw.

At this stage of gum disease, bone begins to be lost around your teeth which is a permanent side effect that causes a domino effect on oral health problems. Teens and young adults with wisdom teeth should see their dentist for signs of periodontal disease. If you have periodontal disease, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist who specializes in treating this condition.

Vicki Morris
Vicki Morris

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