Gum Disease

Your gums are like cushions for your teeth; they surround the tooth from its crown to its root in the jaw and help to support a healthy mouth. Looking after your gums is just as important as looking after your teeth, and without routine cleaning gum disease can occur. 

What is Gum disease? 

The leading cause of tooth loss is Gum disease it can be simply described as swelling soreness or infection of the supply of the tissue to the teeth. Gingivitis and periodontal disease are both forms of gum disease.

 What causes gum disease? 

All gum disease is caused by dental plaque 

Plaque is a collection of bacteria that forms on the surface of teeth every day. We aim to remove plaque with good oral hygiene- brushing and flossing your teeth. Many of the bacteria in plaque are harmless and only a few have the potential to cause gum disease. If plaque is not removed, it can solidify and cause calculus (aka tartar). When you have a professional Cleaning we remove both plaque and calculus. 

What is gingivitis: 

Gingivitis means gum inflammation.  Characteristically, gums surrounding the teeth appear red and swollen and they often bleed easily during cleaning and flossing. It is avoidable and reversible with good oral hygiene habits and regular cleanings by your dentist 

What periodontal disease? 

If long-standing gingivitis is not treated it can progress into periodontal disease. There are a few types of periodontal disease but all types affect the supporting tissues of the teeth: the gums, the bone and the connecting ligaments that help anchor the teeth in the bone. There is no cure for periodontal disease but it can be controlled with the right dental care and oral hygiene habits.

Symptoms of periodontitis can include

  • bad breath (halitosis)
  • an unpleasant taste in your mouth
  • loss of teeth that can make eating difficult
  • gum abscesses (collections of pus that develop under your gums or teeth)

What happens if gum disease is left untreated?

If left untreated, gum disease can result in loose teeth and eventually these teeth can fall out. The buildup of tartar affects the connections between the teeth and the gum. If there are no connectors, the bone begins to disintegrate and the buildup of tartar continues causing pockets of disease. Because of pockets, the gum recedes exposing more of the root and the bone shrinks.

Can I just use mouthwash if I have gingivitis? 

If you suspect, you have gingivitis you should visit your dentist to confirm your suspicions. This is important because many times gingivitis cannot be treated only using mouthwash.

How is gum disease treated?

Your dentist will firstly do a thorough examination of your teeth and gums and take records as well as X rays and photographs.

X rays are important to the assessment of the extent of the disease and progression of gum recession.

Your dentist will then usually give your teeth a thorough clean focusing under your gums. A numbing injection can be placed to help make this type of clean more comfortable. The clean under the gums aims to get rid of bacteria from the roots of your teeth

You’ll also be shown how to remove plaque successfully yourself, cleaning all surfaces of your teeth thoroughly and effectively. This may take a number of sessions with the dentist.

Your dentist might recommend using a chlorhexidine containing mouthwash to help control the buildup of plaque. This may be used for a certain period of time because a Chlorhexidine mouthwash can stain your teeth brown if you use it for a prolonged period. If you have severe gum disease, you may need extensive treatment, such as periodontal surgery.  In some cases, it’s necessary to remove badly affected teeth.

Sometimes If you’re having surgery or deep cleaning, you may also be given antibiotics.

Who is most at risk?

  • Smokers
  • Gum disease in your family
  • Diabetics
  • a weakened immune system – for example, because of conditions such as HIV and AIDS or certain treatments
  • Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy
  • Malnutrition
  • Stress

How does smoking affect my gums and teeth?

Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for gum disease. People who smoke are more likely to produce the type of bacterial plaque which causes gum disease. Smoking also causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream and this directly affects the gums. Giving up Smoking can greatly improve your oral hygiene and improve your gum health.

Gum disease is linked to other general health illnesses like diabetes, strokes, Cardiovascular disease and even dementia. More research is needed to understand these links but there is evidence that having a healthy mouth can increase your general health and greatly reduce any potential cost of medical treatment.

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