Waverly's Dr. Donald S. Clem III, DDS: The Dangerous Oral Health Symptom You Might Be Ignoring

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“When it comes to your body, when have you ever said to yourself, ‘A little bleeding’s okay’?” Waverly Clinical Director Dr. Donald Clem recently asked during a lecture at California State University, Fullerton. 


Uh, never? 


Oh, wait. 


In almost any context, from any part of the body, bleeding — especially unexplained bleeding — is alarming and worthy of immediate attention. Yet every day, thousands of people spit blood into the sink after brushing their teeth and shrug it off. 


Many assume they’ve brushed too hard, which just shows how committed they are to oral hygiene. (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. Please give your poor mouth a break.) Or that maybe their mouth is irritated from something they’ve eaten. And while that can certainly be the case, bleeding gums are more likely a sign of something serious. 


Today almost half of U.S. adults have gum disease. And it’s no coincidence that almost half of U.S. adults also have cardiovascular disease. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk about the starter gum disease, gingivitis.


If you’ve ever seen a mouthwash commercial, you’ve heard of gingivitis. Without proper oral hygiene — that means regular brushing AND flossing — bacteria accumulates and leads to irritation, redness, and bleeding of the soft gum tissue around the teeth. The good news: When caught early, gingivitis can easily be treated. The bad news: When ignored, gingivitis can advance to a stage called periodontitis that affects not just the gums, but also the bone and tooth itself. 


Without an oral care intervention, gum inflammation leads to the formation of periodontal pockets, deep spaces around the teeth that become repositories of bacteria. But not just any bacteria. The bacteria in periodontitis is so aggressive that it forms an antibiotic-resistant ecosystem of its own called biofilm. To defend itself against this virulent bacteria, the body’s immune system produces an inflammatory response that can backfire, due to individual genetic factors. Many people get sicker the harder their bodies fight the bacteria.


Today periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults over age 30, but this disease isn’t restricted to the mouth. The chronic inflammation caused by periodontitis can wreak havoc on your entire body. Research has uncovered links between periodontitis and other systemic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 


So if you see blood when you brush or notice that your gums are red and inflamed, it’s time to do something about it. And Waverly’s here to help. 


Your first Waverly studio experience includes a holistic exam of your entire mouth, including a thorough evaluation of your gums and measurement of periodontal pockets. From there, our team will help you make a plan to improve your oral health, whether it’s scheduling a Purification cleaning session or referring you to a periodontist.

If you’re not able to visit a Waverly studio, it’s important to schedule regular appointments with another dentist. But we’ve still got your back — well, your mouth — with at-home Wave Kits. These comprehensive oral care kits are customized for your specific stage of oral wellness and stocked with our specially formulated products Brush, Floss, Rinse, and Fortify, a non-invasive home treatment for fighting the bacteria that causes gingivitis and periodontal disease. The system’s proprietary trays gently push 1.7% hydrogen peroxide gel into periodontal pockets to reduce bacteria. We recommend using it two to three times per week for 15 minutes. 


Ready to achieve a truly healthy, beautiful smile, above and below the gumline? (Yeah, you are!) Make an appointment at a Waverly studio today or take the oral health quiz to find the Wave Kit that’s right for you.