Understanding Gum Disease
Gaining a better understanding of gum disease is important and can save you from future dental expenses.
Healthy, white teeth may be the stars of the show, but your gums are the best supporting actors of oral health. Gums, clinically called gingiva, keep bacteria out, provide a seal around your teeth, and anchor them securely in place. Without the strength and cushioning gums provide, your teeth wouldn’t be able to withstand the pressure of chewing or biting. A good dental routine not only keeps your teeth strong, but it also keeps your gums healthy. Just as teeth can be damaged from improper hygiene, gums are also susceptible to the effects of plaque and tartar. Gum disease appears in the following forms:
Our mouths are full of bacteria which form a sticky, colorless plaque on teeth. Plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing can harden and form tartar that only a dentist or dental hygienist can remove. The longer plaque and tartar remain on teeth, the more harmful they become. The bacteria causes gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums. In gingivitis, the gums may become red or swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis can usually be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, and regular professional cleaning.
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. Over time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums and trigger a chronic inflammatory response. The tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. The gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen, and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed. Periodontal disease is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults older than 35.
It is possible to have gum disease and have no warning signs. That is one reason why regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are essential. Your dental professional will use a periodontal probe to check for and measure any pockets. In a healthy mouth, the depth of these pockets is usually between 1 and 3 millimeters. X-rays may also be taken to determine if there is any bone loss. If you are diagnosed with gum disease, your dental professional will recommend treatment methods that can range from deep cleaning to surgery depending upon how far the condition has progressed. The primary goal is to stop the spread of infection and reduce further damage.
Good dental care at home is essential to help keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring. Brush properly by directing the bristles into the gum line to prevent plaque buildup. Floss regularly, eat a balanced diet, refrain from smoking and schedule regular dental visits to keep your teeth and gums in great shape.