Why Should You Care About Your Gums?

Many adults in the United States currently have some form of periodontal, or gum, disease. Periodontal diseases range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that can majorly damage the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. What causes gum disease? Our mouths are full of bacteria, which along with mucus and other particles, constantly form a sticky, colorless substance on our teeth - plaque. Proper dental hygiene practices help to get rid of this plaque. Any plaque that is not removed can harden and form tartar, which cannot be removed by brushing. Only a professional cleaning can remove tartar. Forms of gum disease Gingivitis: Plaque and tartar become more harmful the longer they remain on your teeth. The bacteria can lead to gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease that causes the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed more easily. This form can usually be reversed with daily brushing, flossing, and regular cleaning by your dentist.  Periodontitis: If gingivitis goes untreated, it may advance to periodontitis, which means "inflammation around the tooth." In these cases, the gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces, or pockets, that become infected. Bacteria and the body's natural response to infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place. If not treated, the bones, gums and tissue supporting the teeth are destroyed. The teeth may also become loose and need to be removed. Risk factors The following increase your risk of periodontal disease:
  • Smoking
  • Hormonal changes in girls/women
  • Diabetes
  • Other illnesses such as cancer or AIDS and their treatments
  • Medications that reduce the flow of saliva
  • Genetics

Symptoms

  • Bad breath that doesn't go away
  • Gums that are red or swollen
  • Gums that are tender or bleeding
  • Pain when chewing
  • Loose teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Receding gums or teeth that appear longer

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to control the infection. Treatment depends on the extent of the specific cases. Regardless of treatment, one should keep up good daily routines of brushing and flossing. The following are some of the treatment options for gum disease:

  • Scaling: scraping off tartar from above and below the gum line
  • Root planning: Removal of spots on the root of a tooth where germs gather
  • Medications
  • Flap surgery: Removal of tartar deposits in deep pockets
  • Bone/Tissue grafts: Placement of natural or synthetic bone to promote bone growth
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of periodontal disease, pay a visit to your dentist before things get worse.

  Courtesy of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/GumDiseases/PeriodontalGumDisease.htm
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