Why is Gum Health so Important?
Gum tissue has some important functions. It surrounds the roots of teeth, forming a protective seal that helps to prevent infection. They also help to anchor teeth in place and act as a shock absorber that protects deep oral tissues from damage.
Gum disease develops when bacteria begin to grow along the gum line, typically as a result of poor oral hygiene. If this growth progresses to an infection, it causes gum inflammation, bleeding, and tenderness; this early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. Bacteria cause further damage by depositing plaque, an acidic substance that hardens into tartar over the course of several days. Tartar deposits contribute to further inflammation and are difficult to remove.
If gingivitis is left untreated, it progresses to periodontitis. At this stage, bacteria starts to grow beneath the gum line, causing gum tissue to break down. This causes teeth to loosen in their sockets and eventually lead to tooth loss. An advanced infection may spread to the teeth themselves and to the jawbone beneath.
Gum disease affects more than just oral health—it also contributes to risk for heart attack in people with cardiovascular disease as well as make it harder for diabetics to control their blood sugar. It’s not yet clear why this is the case, but it’s certain that gum disease does pose some general health risks. So, it’s more important than ever to take good care of your gums as well as your teeth.
Preventing and Treating Gum Disease
Gum disease can be serious, but it’s a disease that is easy to prevent. Good oral hygiene, with twice-daily brushing and daily flossing, is the best prevention, along with a nutritious low-sugar diet. Regular dental visits are vital too, as they ensure that your teeth and gums are free from plaque and tartar.
In the early stages of gum disease, the effects can be reversed by paying strict attention to oral hygiene, and with professional cleaning to remove any tartar deposits from teeth.
Even if gum disease progresses to periodontitis, it’s still treatable with professional dental care, but additional treatment is needed. For more advanced cases of gum disease, treatments called scaling and root planing are used. Scaling is a treatment in which dental instruments are used to remove tartar from teeth above and below the gum line. Root planing smooths the roots of teeth to make it harder for bacteria to grow.
Keep Teeth and Gums Healthy for Life
Good at-home oral health care is your first line of defense against gum disease and tooth decay, but it’s important to see your dentist regularly too. Regular checkups and professional cleanings help ensure your teeth and gums stay healthy throughout your life.