Good question. It depends…
Well first we need to work out if your gums are healthy or unhealthy.
Ok, so how can you tell whether my gums are healthy or not?
Well, we look for signs and symptoms of disease.
Um, Ok. So what’s the difference between Signs and Symptoms?
Well, classically, Signs of Disease are what I am able to see in your mouth or demonstrate to you, for example, bleeding gums, attachment loss, gingival exudate, pocketing of teeth, bad breath, swollen gums and mobile teeth…
… and Symptoms of Disease are subjective – what you yourself recognise, for example, gum pain or a bad taste or a loose tooth or even bad breath.
As you can see some signs are symptoms and some symptoms are signs as well.
Ok Doc. So… even if I haven’t noticed anything myself but you can see evidence of disease then you will recommend a teeth cleaning?
But what if my gums are healthy?
If your gums are healthy with no signs or symptoms then we need to consider your risk profile – are your gums likely to stay healthy or become unhealthy.
And how can you tell whether my gums are likely to become unhealthy?
Good question. We then need to look at the Risk Factors and your Host Response.
Some risk factors include: the presence of bacteria or plaque in your mouth, tobacco use, diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, hormonal changes such as those in pregnancy, stress, obesity, osteoporosis and some medications. Other contributing risk factors are age, gender, socioeconomic status and education level.
Whoa, slow down Doc you’re getting too technical…
Lol, wait till I start talking about the Host Response…
Ah, the Host Response… Did you ever study immunology…?
No? OK – this can get quite complicated but suffice it to say it can work both ways. A good Host Response will result in minimal gum disease even if the risk factors are high but a poor Host Response may result in major gum disease even if the risk factors are low.
Your Host Response is mainly determined by the Genetic makeup you were born with and this factor, by far, has the biggest effect on your risk of developing gum disease – there’s not much you can do to change this fact – but we can try to minimise your risk of developing gum disease by reducing your overall risk factors.
How do we do that Doc?
Well, my job is easy. I check for signs and symptoms of disease and regularly clean the bacteria off your teeth.
Unfortunately your job is more difficult, you need to try to change your gum disease risk profile by mimimising your risk factors…
Tony Di Salvo
PS. The image is of a different kind of Gum Disease…