No doubt, you have heard how important it is to take care of your gums for the health of your teeth, but it can also affect your overall health. Gums, also known as gingiva, is a barrier tissue that covers and protects your teeth and the bone that surround and support your teeth.
When gums become tender, swollen and begin to bleed, it is usually a sign that the body’s immune system has been triggered.
Are your gums trying to tell you something?
Our mouth is home to a complex ecosystem of microorganisms. While much of the bacteria is our mouth are beneficial in preventing disease, there are some that are harmful if allowed to take over. The proper balance of these germs is critical for a healthy mouth. Certain processes take place everyday to keep this balance from being disrupted so that a response from our immune system is not triggered.
Some patients become aware that something is going on when they begin to notice bleeding when they brush their teeth. Others have had progressive gum disease for a long time and are surprised to learn of it.
Your dentist and dental hygienist are trained to not only help you maintain healthy mouth and teeth, but they are also monitor your mouth for signs of the onset of gum disease. By routine – usually once a year – they will perform a gum evaluation called a periodontal screening.
During this screening, they are assessing the health of your supporting gum and bone structures and evaluating the look of your gums.
Healthy gums are pink and firm. Unhealthy gums are red, swollen, spongy-looking and may bleed. They also look for signs of gum loss (recession) and use a tiny instrument called a probe to measure the depths of the pockets between the teeth and gums. The pocket is a free space located around each tooth. In between each tooth it is where your floss enters for cleaning.
In a healthy mouth, this free space becomes attached gum about 2-3 mm of the way down. When bacteria is allowed to accumulate in this space inflammation occurs that triggers the immune system to send white blood cells. Unfortunately, the WBC not only destroys bacteria but gum tissue also. When the attachment portion of the gum tissue gets destroyed, the pocket become deeper and more bacteria, dental plaque and food can accumulate.
If left untreated or unnoticed, this pocketing will lead to bone loss. Eventually, enough bone is lost that the tooth becomes loose and cannot be saved.
Early detection is key
This is why it is important to identify this pocketing early in order to prevent further gum and bone loss. There are various treatment options available for gum disease and your dentist may refer you to see a gum specialist (Periodontist) for ongoing care.
Unfortunately, gum disease is called a “silent disease” that often goes unnoticed until a significant amount of damage occurs. This is usually the case for people who do not see a dentist routinely where the health of their teeth and gums can be monitored on a regular basis.
Periodontal disease has long been the leading cause of tooth loss in adults which is why every patient should have a periodontal screening performed annually. Early detection is key and can make all the difference.
The good news is that gum disease is an easily preventable disease. By simply brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and attending to regular dental check-ups and cleanings you are already helping your mouth and teeth.
Keep your teeth in tip-top shape:
1. Meal frequency – Reduce snacking in between meals to allow your saliva to repair damage done by acid attacks. Read here
2. Do not sip on sugary drinks or coffee/tea with milk, cream and/or sugar frequently or all day long.
3. Use an antiseptic mouth rinse once a day
4. Ensure that other medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease is monitored by your physician regularly and is under control.
5. Consider a smoking cessation program as smokers are almost three times as likely as nonsmokers to have periodontitis
6. Eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet that helps to control inflammation like:
- green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collards
- fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges
- fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
- nuts and legumes
- olive oil
If you suspect gum disease, never ignore the signs and see a dentist.
- red, swollen gums
- tender and/or bleeding gums
- loose gums that have pulled away from your tooth
- sensitive teeth
- pain when eating
- receding gums; tooth appears longer
- spaces between tooth and increased food impaction
- loose fitting partial dentures
- persistent bad breath
Keeping your gums healthy and strong is the simplest way to maintain your overall health and help to ensure you keep your teeth for life. If it has been a while since you have been to the dentist for a check-up or suspect you may be having problems with your gums please contact our office today at 9055SMILES (905.576.4537). You’ll be glad you did!