Gum Disease: What you need to know
article by Raha Sepehrara
Gum affects millions of people and leads to tooth loss in untreated. Gum disease is a ‘silent’ disease, people may not be aware they have it until the damage to the teeth and bone is too severe and irreversible. This is why regular dental check ups and regular hygienist visits are recommended by your dental health care professional.
What is Gum Disease?
A tooth consists of two parts: the crown, which is what is visible in our mouths and the root, which is into the jawbone covered by the gums.
When you see a dentist or a hygienist, they will use an instrument called a probe to check your gums, in order to see if you have any tartar build up and if your gums are swollen and becoming detached from the bone.
There are 2 types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Gingivitis is a reversible form of gum disease which presents with gum swelling and bleeding but the gums are still attached to the bone and the bone has not shrunk. Once gingivitis is treated and well maintained at home, the mouth can reverse back to health with no permanent damage to the gums or bone
- Periodontitis is an irreversible form of gum disease. This means that there is permanent damage to the gums and bone. The gums may shrink and the bone may be eaten away. There are various degrees of bone loss. Mild-Moderate periodontal disease can successfully be treated in most cases, more severe cases unfortunately will lead to tooth loss.
What causes Gum Disease?
Tartar (Plaque) build up is the main cause of gum disease. This is a thin film made of bacteria and their deposits which irritate the gums. This build up, if not removed, can harden making it impossible to remove with a toothbrush. If plaque is left to grow overtime, it can build up under the gums then causing more damage to the gums and initiating periodontal disease. The gums start detaching from the bone and the bone starts shrinking in response to the irritation cause by the build up.
This is why we recommend regular hygiene visits so that this hardened build up can be removed by your hygienist with her special instruments. If the build up is only superficial then you would require a scale and polish. If the plaque is further down into the gum and you have periodontal disease you would require a series of appointments which require deeper cleaning and removal of the build up. These visit will require you to be gently numbed up so that you cannot feel anything while our hygienist removes the build up from the roots of your teeth.
Looking after your gums at home
Our dental team will provide their best treatment to improve the chances of healing but home maintenance is just as important to ensure further issues are prevented or acute disease is stopped.
So these are our tips for best home care:
- Brush your teeth 2/3 times daily for at least 2 minutes.
- Clean between your teeth daily with floss between the tighter teeth and with interproximal tooth brushes where there is more space between the teeth.
- Use mouthwash daily.
- Have a good balanced diet.
- Be aware that certain health conditions can make you more vulnerable to gum issues and therefore you need to be even more careful with your oral care. These are some of the conditions to be aware diabetes, certain medications, manual dexterity issues which make it harder to brush your teeth, pregnancy.
Gum Disease and effects on overall health
There is increased evidence that gum disease can have an effect on one’s overall health
These are some of the recent findings:
- A link between gum disease and increased risk of heart problems
- A link between gum disease and low birth weight and premature deliveries
- Possible links between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease
Gum disease and Smoking
Gum disease and gum treatment are affected by smoking. Smoking has an additive effects on gum disease, making it worse. Also if you have gum treatment, you are less likely to respond to treatment due to smoking as it impairs the healing process.
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