Right now, it doesn’t seem like Americans can agree on anything. But, there is one thing that 99.7% of us won’t contest: a smile is an important social asset. Our teeth our unique, like our fingerprints, even differing between identical twins. We’re careful to care for them, making sure we brush and floss them regularly, and even spending a total of $1.4 billion a year on tooth whitening products and procedures. When it comes to caring for our smiles, teeth tend to get all the attention. What most of us forget about is our gums.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an infection of the tissues and bones surrounding and supporting the teeth. There are two types of gum disease, gingivitis, a mild disease only affecting the gums, and periodontitis, a more severe gum disease that spreads below the teeth, damaging the tissues and bones supporting them.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
The symptoms of gum disease vary, depending on the type of gum disease. Patients with gingivitis have red, swollen gums that bleed easily when teeth are brushed. It usually isn’t painful, so patients with gingivitis often don’t get the treatment for gum disease that they need. Periodontitis, on the other hand, has much less tolerable symptoms of gum disease. The gums pull away from the teeth, leaving deep pockets where bacteria grow and damage the bone supporting the teeth. Sometimes, gums will shrink back from the teeth making them look longer. Other patients with periodontitis will notice their teeth becoming loose or falling out.
Gum Disease Causes
Plaque houses bacteria which make toxins that irritate the gums and cause them to break down. Failure to remove plaque from your teeth can cause it to spread below the gums, damaging the bone and hardening into tartar which must be professionally removed. Patients who don’t clean their teeth well, smoke or chew tobacco, have family history of gum disease, or are prone to infection are most likely to experience symptoms of gum disease.
How to Treat Gum Disease
Mild cases of gum disease can be eradicated by brushing and flossing every day and getting regular cleanings. Periodontitis, however, requires cleaning by a hygienist using a method called root planing and scaling. This removes the plaque and tartar buildup above and below the gum line. Antibiotics are also sometimes used to get rid of the infection. In rare cases, curing gum disease through those methods is impossible and surgery must be performed.
Gums are just as important to a beautiful, healthy smile as great teeth. Prevent gum disease by brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, visiting your dentist for regular cleanings, and avoiding tobacco. If you’re careful to do those things, you can avoid the pain and inconvenience of gum disease. References.