Are You Ignoring Your Gum Health?
Underestimating the importance of healthy gums could lead to serious problems
Most of us probably consider that we look after our teeth at least fairly well. Years of being told to brush our teeth, by our parents, has probably drilled into us that we need to brush them every day.
This is a good start for sure, but it does sometimes mean that another important part of our mouths is given less attention than should be the case.
Having healthy gums is incredibly important, and not just for our teeth but for our general health too. Advanced gum disease can lead to many problems, not least the possibility of tooth loss. The good news though is that it is relatively easy to stop this happening, with just a little extra care.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is an infection caused by an excess of harmful bacteria in our mouths. This often involves involves plaque, a substance containing bacteria that coats our teeth and gums and ‘attacks’ them, causing damage. Mild cases are not uncommon and can happen, for example, when we are ill and maybe miss cleaning our teeth a couple of times. This is usually not too problematic and a return to regular brushing may be all that is needed to reverse it. When it is allowed to advance though, serious problems may lie ahead.
Symptoms of gum disease
Whilst it is possible to have ‘silent’ gum disease, where symptoms don’t really present themselves, this is not usually the case and there are a number of possible indicators that there may be problems with your gums. These include:
- Sore or inflamed gums
- Painful gums when you bite on food
- Bleeding gums when you brush your teeth
- Bad breath/halitosis
- Receding gums
- Loose or wobbly teeth
This is not an exclusive list and other symptoms may present themselves. If you feel that something is wrong with your teeth or gums, you should contact The Dental Centre Bedford as soon as possible to have the problem checked out.
Gum disease prevention
As mentioned earlier, avoiding serious gum disease problems should be relatively straightforward if you take a little extra care. Mild gum disease is common though and we do recommend that you see our dental hygienist regularly to help ensure that your teeth and gums are maintained in good health.
In a nutshell, these are the key things to do to help maintain healthy gums:
- Clean your teeth twice a day, angling the bristles towards the gumline
- Make sure your toothbrush isn’t old and worn and replace regularly
- Spit but don’t rinse after brushing
- Use dental floss (the hygienist can demonstrate how to do this correctly)
- Keep well hydrated by drinking water
- Quit smoking if you currently do
- See a dental hygienist regularly
There is nothing too difficult there and just a little additional effort can help to ensure that your gums remain healthy.
Treating gum disease
What if you already have gum disease? The treatment available will depend on how advanced it is. For relatively mild gum disease we would generally encourage you to see the hygienist. They can perform a professional teeth cleaning, known as a ‘scale and polish’, that will remove the hardened bacteria and minerals from the teeth, known as tartar or calculus, that home brushing can’t. They can also discuss your lifestyle and brushing habits and make recommendations for improvement. We suggest that you see the hygienist every six months and possibly more frequently if you are in a higher risk group such as diabetics. In most cases, this will be sufficient to keep your gums nice and healthy. You will have to maintain a good oral care regimen at home too of course.
If your gums have been neglected and gum disease is more advanced; a stage known as periodontitis, it is less likely that a scale and polish will be effective enough to restore the gums. The reason for this is that during this stage, the infection is no longer restricted to areas above the gum line but may have reached the roots of the tooth and surrounding bone tissue. This causes the bone to degrade and consequently loosen the teeth, making them wobbly. To treat this, a procedure known as root planing or a ‘deep clean’ is necessary. This is an invasive treatment that will require a local anaesthetic and is carried out by a dentist with appropriate periodontal training and experience. Success is not a guarantee with this treatment unfortunately, but it is the only one available and without it, tooth loss is a real risk.
As you can see, gum disease should be taken seriously and this is why we can’t emphasise enough that you should take good care of them, especially as this requires just a little more effort during your daily oral health regimen.
If you suspect you have gum disease, you should contact our Bedford dental practice as soon as possible. Even if you are not aware of any current problems but you don’t currently see the hygienist, we strongly recommend that you do add this to your calendar. Appointments can be made by calling The Dental Centre Bedford on 01234 819868.