Health starts with teeth

By DR. YETTA G. MCCULLOM

In 1988 my husband traveled to Chicago to find a place for our family to start our lives together. Hyde Park was the location he felt would be best for his young family to thrive. Having lived here, it’s no surprise this community has nurtured so many great ideas and people. Our community is the definition of diversity. With our variety of races and economic backgrounds, there is something we all have in common: the warmth of a smile. The smile is something we often take for granted until it may be lost. I am very thankful the governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, has proclaimed February as Gum Disease Awareness month. As your resident periodontist, I had to take the time to bring to my community some of the facts about gum disease, the major cause of adult tooth loss, and let you know how to best care for yourself.

I admit that I take the issue of gum disease more seriously than the average person and possibly the average dentist. As a periodontist, I spend my days focused on the diagnosis and treatment of gum diseases. I see firsthand the benefit of proper care and the disaster of improper care and ignorance. The newest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey results give new statistics I want the community to be aware of: 47.2 percent of 64.7 million Americans have some form of gum disease.

The good news is that all forms of gum disease respond to therapy. Gum disease is a broad term that includes gingivitis which is inflammation of the gum tissue only. Periodontitis includes inflammation of the gum tissue and loss of bone. It’s the bone loss that ends up causing the loss of perfectly lovely teeth. It’s the bone loss that once it starts, puts you in a category which requires special attention to make sure you remain stable. This inflammation and infection have been implicated in heart disease, diabetes, smoking and a host of other ailments. It’s a health issue that is often painless and easy to overlook.

My tip for you is to make sure you have a periodontal exam on a regular basis. The Academy of Periodontology, at perio.org, a great source of information, recommends a periodontal examination every year. The exam is the only way to make sure there is health and stability. The foundation of treatment is control of the bacteria that live in the area around the teeth. There are many ways to treat gum disease, some better than others. The success of treatment can only be determined by measurement of the area around the teeth known as periodontal probings.

My husband made the right choice when he picked Hyde Park for our home. We’ve educated our children here and enjoyed the friendship and support of this community. The next time you see your neighbor and share a smile don’t take it for granted. Stay healthy and keep smiling.

Dr. McCullom is a periodontist who lives and works on the South Side of Chicago.