Although having straight teeth and a pearly white smile is what most prioritize when it comes to dental health, maintaining good gum health is incredibly crucial. Gum disease can affect any number of patients, even those without cavities. Since gum disease generally does not cause pain or discomfort, many people overlook gum health. However, “sore, puffy gums can ultimately lead to tooth decay and bone loss—and possibly problems beyond your mouth, too. Studies have tied poor oral and gum health to conditions that involve the immune system, lungs, heart, and brain.” And so, it is imperative for individuals to care for their gums as best they can.
Gum disease stems from a build-up -- beneath and across the gum line -- of plaque. A tacky, film-like substance packed with bacteria, plaque often results in infections that damage the gum and bone and can give rise to tooth decay and gum disease. Moreover, plaque may bring about gingivitis, the preliminary gum disease stage, if not removed daily. Gingivitis often causes the gums to become tender, red, inflamed, swollen, etc. However, gingivitis does not impact the bone or tissue that hold teeth in place. Thus, the damage caused by the earliest stage of gum disease can be corrected.
Moreover, patients can also develop an advanced type of gum disease called periodontitis. Since periodontitis can gravely affect the bones that hold your teeth in place, this form of gum disease can permanently devastate the gums. Periodontitis can ruin the bones and tissues connected to an individual’s teeth if not treated thoroughly and efficiently. Further, in patients who progress to the final stage of gum disease, advanced periodontitis, the fibers and bones that support the teeth become destroyed. Advanced periodontitis can dramatically impact a patient’s bite, in some cases necessitating the extraction of teeth. And many doctors have linked gum inflammation to inflammation elsewhere in the body, leading to numerous health issues like heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and even Alzheimer’s.
The American Dental Association (ADA) identifies several signs that might signify the development of gum disease. Symptoms associated with gum disease consist of gums that bleed easily, gums that are tender, swollen, or red, gums that have pulled away from the teeth, separation or loss of permanent teeth, and consistently bad breath or taste.
It is critical to floss a minimum of once per day to adequately and regularly remove plaque and food unreachable by a toothbrush. Moreover, individuals are strongly encouraged to brush their teeth and scrub their tongue following each meal to rid the mouth and gums of food, plaque, and growing bacteria. Most dentists recommend soft-bristle toothbrushes as they comfortably fit into the mouth. However, electric or battery-powered toothbrushes are great options, helping eliminate gingivitis and plaque more effectively than manual brushing.
Patients should use a toothpaste that contains fluoride to minimize gingivitis, whiten teeth, and freshen breath. And those wanting to eliminate food particles and debris from the mouth, as well as reduce plaque, lessen or put a stop to gingivitis, and decrease the speed at which tarter forms can benefit from utilizing a therapeutic mouthwash. Additionally, water picks, which dislodge debris between the teeth via an H2O spray, can be advantageous when used in conjunction with regular flossing. By caring for one’s teeth and gums well, and visiting a dentist or periodontist semiannually, patients can steer clear of trouble and maintain good gum health!
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