Periodontal Disease Vernon Hills, ILEveryone has heard Smokey the Bear giving us the business about not being a bunch of lunkheads and starting forest fires. Even though Chicago isn’t exactly the hotbed of forest fires, we still all know the saying, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

True enough. But only you can also prevent gum disease. Now, who’s the spokesperson/spokes animal for that? Pinky the Gum? Uh, icky.

Prevention is key to good oral hygiene on all fronts. Dr. Hoffenberg and Amin are big proponents of giving our patients tips on home hygiene when we see something amiss during your regular cleanings and exams.

For your gums, good hygiene can help you avoid any gum disease your entire life. Poor hygiene, on the other hand, could lead you down a road you don’t want to go. Just ask Pinky the Gum.

Periodontal disease is the medical term for gum disease. It involves infection of the gums that can end up with tooth loss and an appearance on Duck Dynasty.

But gum disease almost never has to happen. It begins with dental plaque, which is the sticky film that forms on your teeth throughout the day. The plaque has lots of bacteria in it. Dental plaque is easy to remove simply by daily brushing and flossing. In fact, a good home dental hygiene program of brushing twice daily for two minutes and flossing once a day is usually enough for most people never to have to deal with gum disease.

But if you’re lazy with your home hygiene, along with other factors such a smoking, plaque can have its way with your mouth. When plaque isn’t removed, it hardens into calculus, also known as tartar. Tartar can only be removed by a hygienist or other dental professional. This is where it all begins, with tartar buildup.

Gingivitis first. Periodontitis later.

If you’ve allowed tartar to buildup and it’s made its way under your gum-line, these are the first signs of gum problems. The bacteria in plaque produce toxins that irritate the gums, but when tartar gets under your gums, this is getting more serious. This irritation is called gingivitis.

Even though you’ve let things go, at this point you can reverse the trend with a professional cleaning and more diligent home care. But if you don’t opt for this route, the gum irritation worsens and the gums begin to pull away from the teeth causing pockets to form. These pockets are perfect hangouts for bacteria, and that bacteria begin to attack the roots of the teeth. You can see where this is leading — tooth loss and jawbone deterioration.

Now, a trip to Dr. Hoffenberg will be necessary just to keep your teeth. He’ll need to do things such as gum planing and scaling. He may need to prescribe some antibiotics if an infection has taken hold. A root canal could be required to save a tooth or teeth.

And to think, a little prevention could have headed all of this off, just as Pinky the Gum warned. OK, there is no Pinky the Gum, but you get the idea — only you can prevent gum disease.

Is it time for your twice-yearly cleanings and checkups? Call Dr. Hoffenberg at 847-367-6760 to make your appointment.