Gum Disease, Real Threat to Health

Periodic dental exams prevent gum disease and tooth loss

There’s gum disease, and then there’s Gum Disease

Clearly you can’t have healthy teeth without first having healthy gums. Gums serve to protect the base of the teeth, where connective tissue anchors them to jawbone. Left untreated, gum problems can lead to tooth and bone loss. Knowing what you can do to keep your gums healthy will help you preserve not only your smile, but your overall good health as well.

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis occurs in the mouth as bacteria begin to build up in tiny pockets along the gum line, resulting inflammation. Early symptoms include bleeding when brushing and persistent bad breath. Gingivitis, which, in most cases, is treatable and managed with good oral care practices, accounts for about 70 percent of gum disease, while the more persistent form called periodontitis makes up the remaining 30 percent.

The warning signs of gum disease can include:

  • tooth brushing causes bleeding gums
  • gums are red, swollen or tender to the touch
  • gums appear to be pulled away from the teeth
  • bad breath
  • pus between the teeth and gums
  • teeth appear to be loosening
  • a change in your bite

Gingivitis happens when teeth are neglected, causing a buildup of oral plaque. This thin, sticky film is primarily made up of bacteria. Plaque that remains on the surface of teeth for prolonged periods without being brushed away will then harden under the gum line turning into what dentists call tartar or calculus. At this stage the buildup is much more difficult – if not impossible – to brush away, ultimately creating a closed environment under the gums in which bacteria can thrive.

Plaque leads to gingivitis, gingivitis leads to periodontitis

The plaque that causes gingivitis lies at or above the gum line is called supragingival plaque. This type of plaque can become covered by inflamed gum tissue or otherwise spread below the gum line and once that happens it is called subgingival plaque. Once tartar has formed below the gum line the only effective way to remove it is through a technique called scaling, scale, or planing using an instrument to clean under the gum margins – (where a dental healthcare provider works to remove the tartar by scraping it away with specially designed instruments). However, if dental plaque and tartar remain untreated at this point, the gums will become progressively more irritated and inflamed, resulting in the more serious condition called periodontitis.

Ugly periodontitis

Periodontitis happens when oral bacteria have built up over time and begun to invade the underlying bone that normally anchors the teeth in place. At this point, the gums may recede, exposing the delicate root surfaces, causing increasing sensitivity to heat and cold at the least, and tooth and bone loss at the most.

Symptoms of periodontitis may include:

  • Receding gums
  • Visible pockets of inflammation at the gum line
  • Gum soreness and pain
  • Extreme sensitivity to temperature changes

By the time people have begun to notice any of the warning signs of periodontitis, it is often too late to reverse the damage. That’s why regular dental checkups are so important. During routine exams dentists are able to spot pockets of inflammation or places where gum tissue has become damaged, exposing the root of the tooth. Dental X-rays can also reveal early signs of gum disease.

Stopping gum disease early may be more important than you think

According to a growing body of clinical research trials and studies, catching signs of gum disease early and effectively treating it, may be far more important than you might imagine as these studies indicate that advanced periodontal disease can cause other, even more serious chronic health problems as well.

Gum disease is preventable and having good habits from a young age can really help

Gum disease is preventable and having good habits from a young age can really help

Prevention and Treatment of Gum Disease

Some of the well-known basics of good oral healthcare include;

  • Brushing least twice a day
  • Rinsing vigorously (with water) after each meal
  • Floss daily
  • Don’t smoke
  • Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night

Managing Periodontitis

Periodontitis is a condition that needs to be managed carefully due to the inflammation that has already invaded below the gum line which, of course requires immediate care from a dentist followed by aggressive and consistent home care. Once treatment has begun, committing to a practice of good dental care will help reduce your risk of further inflammation and damage. Your dentist may also recommend more frequent checkups to monitor and ensure future gum health.

Following a healthy diet can also help create a healthy oral environment and maintain healthy gums. New research suggests that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish (herring, salmon, sardines, trout, tuna,) fish oil and flaxseed helps to reduces inflammation. Adopting a practice of oil pulling using coconut oil may also lead to long term healthy gums. Supplements that support oral health can also be suggested by your dentist.

More information:

What Is Gum Disease? What Is Gingivitis? What Causes Gingivitis? http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/167727.php

Periodontitis http://www.healthcentral.com/encyclopedia/408/254.html & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periodontitis

Preventing and Treating Gum Problems http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/healthy-teeth-10/gums-problems-gingivitis?page=2

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