Good Gum Care Matters
Your gums play a pivotal role in protecting your teeth from harm. Healthy gums support healthy teeth and mouth. When the gums are compromised by various Periodontal conditions and diseases, trauma and injury through simple neglect or even oral manifestations of systemic health, oral health suffers. In other words, your gums could be thought of as the proverbial canary in the coal mine.
Your gums are the soft tissues that cover the upper and lower jaw bones in your mouth. They surround your teeth, help support them, and most importantly, form a tight seal around your teeth.
Whereas the hard enamel of the tooth itself is designed to protect the exposed tooth crown and to provide a resilient structure for chewing, the gums are intended to protect the roots by keeping out debris and bacteria. While resistant to everyday chewing actions, they are, however, susceptible to repeated trauma. Particularly problematic is the issue of toothbrush abrasion injuries caused by excessive and aggressive tooth brushing habits, resulting in damage to the gums that often manifest in the form of gingival recession.
Signs of Good Gum Condition
Uniform coral pink color
Smooth curved or scalloped appearance around each tooth
No bleeding from routine brushing and flossing
When gums are neglected or are affected by disease conditions either oral or systemic in origin, many severe dental and oral health issues can arise. Chief among these is commonly referred to as “gum disease,” also known as gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis
Gingivitis is an inflammatory bacterial disease that affects the gums and results in inflammation, bleeding and increase in pockets around teeth. It is a mild form of periodontal disease. The primary cause is accumulating plaque at the gum margins and therefore is in most cases a reversible condition through better home oral care and regular professional dental hygiene practices.
Periodontitis is a more severe form of gum disease. It is a highly destructive chronic inflammatory disease in the gums that begin as gingivitis and progress to affect the remaining supporting structures of the teeth, notably the ligaments and bone that function in stabilizing teeth in the jaw bone.
Patients with periodontitis develop deep periodontal pockets that bleed readily. These occur when, due to inflammation caused by plaque buildup along the gum line, the gums become detached from the bone and teeth. Food debris and bacteria grow and proliferate in these pockets as home self-care methods of oral hygiene practices such as brushing and flossing are ineffective in these deep pockets.
Regenerative procedures can reverse some of the damage by regenerating lost bone and tissue. Portland Perio Implant Center employs the latest scientifically supported and advanced techniques in reversing damage and salvaging teeth.
As gum disease progresses, toxic bacterial waste products coupled with your body's immune response eventually take their toll on surrounding tissues. The hallmark of periodontitis is the loss of bone around teeth and if not treated appropriately will ultimately lead to mobility and tooth loss. Gum disease is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults, and one in every two adults over the age of 30 have a form of periodontal disease.
Untreated periodontal disease also increases the risk of other systemic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease and strongly linked to other chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s. Despite its prevalence, there remains a lack of urgency in identifying and appropriately treating periodontal disease.
Common Signs of Gum Disease
Halitosis (Bad Breath)
8 Simple Ways To Keep Your Gums Healthy
When you brush your teeth, don’t just brush the hard tooth surfaces. Brush along the gum line as well. The key word here is “gently,” yet thoroughly!
The gentle brushing will remove the plaque along the gum line without abrading your gums and unintentionally contributing to gum recession.
Flossing is important. Only 40 percent of Americans floss every day. An alarming 20 percent never floss at all. This is a significant mistake in dental hygiene! Flossing removes plaque and food debris from inter-dental surfaces that can’t be reached with a toothbrush alone. Flossing is, therefore, a critical component in preventing periodontal disease.
Be sure to floss along the base of a tooth to remove as much plaque along the gumline as possible. “The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) recommends daily flossing as one part of a regular oral hygiene routine, which also includes brushing your teeth twice a day and ensuring you receive a comprehensive periodontal evaluation every year.” (AAP statement)
Occasionally rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash is a great way to remove any leftover bacteria in your mouth after brushing and flossing. The benefits of using mouthwash are, of course, it’s ease of use and the ability to reach every corner of the mouth with ease.
Mouthwash should NOT be used as a substitute for brushing and flossing in routine oral hygiene practices.
Take your fingers and gently press them against your gums. Massaging your gums is an excellent and easy way to promote gum health. Massages help facilitate blood flow and stimulate the underlying jaw bones as well.
Tobacco consumption is proven to cause significant harm to the gums. Smoking is considered a risk factor in developing periodontal disease. Long-term tobacco users are susceptible to the development of ulcers and open sores on their gums. Other concerns for gum health caused by tobacco use include the development of leukoplakia - a precursor to oral cancer.
Like tobacco, sustained alcohol use also has destructive effects on the gums. Alcohol dries out the mouth and gums leading to dry mouth and suppressed saliva production. Saliva continually lavages the oral structures, lubricates tissues and bathes teeth in natural protective bactericides and minerals and has a pH buffering effect. A dry mouth is, therefore, more susceptible to excessive plaque buildup and more readily prone to irritation and trauma, as well as periodontal diseases and conditions.
One way to combat dry mouth and better combat bacterial insult is to drink more water. Not only is staying hydrated good for your body overall, drinking water increases salivary flow that in turn rinses your teeth of food debris and early plaque accumulation.
If you would like an app to help remind you to stay hydrated, I recommend the Daily Water Tracker Reminder or Daily Water - Drink Reminder app, both are available for iPhone and Android devices. For those with the Apple Watch, you will want the Daily Water - Drink Reminder app.
If you have been told that you have periodontal disease, it is crucial that you receive an annual comprehensive periodontal evaluation and seek treatment from a periodontist. Each patient is unique. There are many forms and severities of periodontal diseases and therefore a correct diagnosis with appropriate therapy in a timely manner is vital in managing the disease progression. A dental professional can make a referral to a periodontist, a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease, for a comprehensive periodontal evaluation and specialized periodontal treatment plan.