By: Jean Johnson for Dental1
People in their twenties that think they don’t have to worry about gum disease might want to listen up to Raymond White Jr., D.D.S., Ph.D. He was the lead researcher in a Third Molar Clinical Trials study presented in September at the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons annual meeting. White did not at all expect the results of his study to turn out the way they did.
|Ways to prevent gum disease: |
Visit your dental hygienist every six months to one year to monitor both the health of your teeth and the status of your gums.
Practice conscientious oral hygiene by brushing and flossing.
Water piks are useful for removing food particles and helping keep gum tissue clean.
Try to brush or at least rinse after consuming foods and drinks containing sugar.
Know that infection in the gums can promote infection elsewhere in the body and so it’s as critical to attend to as an infected toe.
“That was a huge surprise to find this much periodontal disease with people of this age,” White said, a former dean at the school of dentistry at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who worked with a team from UNC and the University of Kentucky. “We’re recommending that everybody with wisdom teeth should have them evaluated.”
White targets the wisdom teeth – or the third molars in the back of the mouth – because the study showed that the plaque-producing bacteria that causes gum, or periodontal, disease tends to congregate around these hard-to-reach teeth.
The study that included approximately 400 people found that 60 percent of the participants showed signs of infection in the gum tissue around their four rear-most wisdom teeth. More, after two years problems had worsened in 25 percent of the group attesting to the progressive nature of this disease. If left untreated, gum disease can that ultimately loosen the teeth, encourage infection elsewhere in the body via the bloodstream, and interfere with healthy pregnancies. Worse, the condition can progress silently without obvious symptoms according to White.
“That a quarter of patients in their twenties had periodontal problems with no symptoms was a surprise to us since most people assumed that you don’t get periodontal problems until you are 35 or 40,” said White. “But nobody had looked at wisdom teeth systematically before in a very larger study like this.”
According to Portland, Oregon dental hygienist, Nina Lieblick, R.D.H., White’s reference to no obvious symptoms refers to signs patients might detect at home. “Once patients come in for their cleanings, we probe around and if there is bleeding back there, we’d find it,” said Lieblick. “It is true that many people have problems with wisdom teeth because they’re just so hard to get to and so plaque builds up back there. Also sometimes they are not completely uncovered by the gums and so are hard to clean.”
Lieblick explains that much depends on the size of a person’s jaw. “A big guy with a big jaw is fine, but in regular sized mouths, there is really no room for wisdom teeth. That’s why hygienists don’t like them and tend to think taking them out is a good thing.”
“Many people usually end up having problems down the road anyway with the area at least prone to cavities,” Lieblick said. “So it’s much easier on the patients to get them out when they are 17 or 18. The body heals much better than if they wait until they are 45.”
White, however, is not ready to completely concur with Lieblick just yet and points out that there are more than 50 studies focused on third molars currently under way. “Although most people eventually will develop pathology with wisdom teeth, periodontal disease, periocoronitis, or tooth decay, it is too early to recommend strongly that everyone has their wisdom teeth removed,” White said. “It is a good idea to have your third molars evaluated before age 25. But since a quarter of people will never have problems with them, a lot depends on how risk-averse one is as to whether their third molars with no detected pathology should be extracted as a precaution.”