Gum disease is a common problem that can occur very gradually. Aging, brushing too hard, genetics, and any lapse in hygiene habits can get the ball rolling in the wrong direction. It starts with oral bacteria that feed on particles of carbohydrate-rich foods left behind after a meal. The bacteria metabolize carbohydrates and produce plaque acids, which they deposit on the surface of teeth. The top layer of bacteria and the plaque responds to brushing, but the overlooked plaque can harden into tartar in just a few days.
The tartar, along with the presence of bacteria, irritates the gums and causes inflammation, also known as gingivitis. The gums look red and swollen and may bleed when brushing the teeth. Without proper treatment, gingivitis can advance to a stage called periodontal disease, or periodontitis. As the disease advances, it damages gum tissue and starts to damage the jaw bone underlying the teeth.
Unfortunately, gum tissue does not regenerate like other types of tissues, like skin cells, for example. This fact makes it even more important to prevent gum disease early and treat it aggressively when you do have problems. Start by making an appointment with your dentist so you can get an accurate and complete diagnosis.
If you have receding gums that have pulled away from the tooth, it will create small spaces where bacteria can collect and grow. Without treatment, the condition will get worse and can eventually lead to bone and tooth loss.
The first treatment most dentists will recommend will be a professional cleaning called scaling and root planing. This is an aggressive cleaning to remove plaque and tartar build up using specialized tools or an ultrasonic device. Removing these bacteria can slow down or even stop the gums from receding. Antibacterial gel placed under the gumline and prescription mouthwash can also help keep harmful bacteria from coming back and doing more damage. When the tooth surfaces and roots have been cleaned and treated, gum tissue can re-attach to stabilize and encourage better gum health.
Stopping the spread of disease is so important that more invasive treatments are recommended to get out ahead of the problem. Surgery can definitively remove bacteria deep under the gums, and grafting procedures can replace missing tissue.
Flap surgery is used to lift up and surgically remove plaque that unreachable with scaling and root planning, then secured back in place to prevent more gum loss. Gum grafting uses tissue from another part of the mouth and transplants it to the deeply receded areas. Bonding is the application of tooth-colored resin placed over the roots. All of these procedures can protect your teeth and bone from further damage and improve the appearance of your smile.
Gum disease is a common condition that needs your diligent attention. You wouldn’t keep driving your car around with a flat tire because eventually, you won’t be going anywhere. Paying attention to your gums can keep your body functioning better and keep you smiling with confidence, which will keep you safely on the road to optimal oral health!
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