Our dental health often revolves around our teeth appearance. We diligently brush, floss, and maintain their health and aesthetics but overlook a vital aspect of our oral hygiene – our gum health. Gums support our teeth, ensuring their stability and shielding the underlying structures. Without healthy gums, the foundation of oral health can crumble. So, let’s shift the spotlight to gum disease prevention, treatment, and invaluable tips to improve gum health for both healthy teeth and gums.
Gum Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Risks
Gum or periodontal disease is an inflammatory condition which affects the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. It is primarily caused by the accumulation of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth and along the gumline. When plaque is not removed through regular oral hygiene practices, it can harden into tartar or calculus, leading to gum inflammation and infection.
There are two main stages of gum disease:
Gingivitis – This is the early stage of gum disease and is characterised by gum inflammation. Common signs include red, swollen, and tender gums that may bleed easily, especially during brushing or flossing. At this stage, the bone and connective tissues that support the teeth are not yet affected, and the damage is reversible with proper treatment and oral care.
Periodontitis – If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, with the infection spreading below the gumline, causing the gums to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets. Bacteria thrive in these pockets, leading to further damage to the gum tissue and supporting structures. Over time, the bone and connective tissues can deteriorate, resulting in tooth loss or the need for extraction.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Gum disease, especially in the initial stages, is mostly painless with almost no visible symptoms. This is what makes it so dangerous as most people are unaware that they might have this condition. In fact, gum disease is so common worldwide that almost 19% of the adult population is affected by gum disease. This represents more than 1 billion cases globally, with Every 1 in 3 adults in Australia having gum disease.
Most of the symptoms associated with gum disease are generally associated with oral hygiene issues and are brushed off as being minor. This is why regular dental checkups, professional cleaning and oral hygiene instruction are your main defence against gum disease.
Some of the symptoms of gum disease include:
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Bleeding gums, especially during brushing or flossing
- Persistent bad breath
- Receding gums
- Loose or shifting teeth
- Changes in bite or difficulty chewing
Causes of Gum Disease
The main cause of gum disease is plaque and tartar buildup that extends below the gumline, allowing the bacteria to enter the internal tissues. But there are other factors which influence and escalate its impact. Some of them include:
- Poor oral hygiene, such as inconsistent or wrong brushing technique and not using the correct cleaning tools and products.
- Not cleaning between the teeth with flossing or interdental brushes. This leaves food particles and debris stuck in your mouth, allowing bacteria to accumulate and thrive.
- Lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity, poor nutrition and a diet high in sugar also increase the risk of gum disease.
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy, age, and genetics all contribute to the risk of developing gum disease.
- Certain medical conditions which affect your immune systems, such as diabetes or cancer, also make you more susceptible to gum disease.
Risks of Gum Disease
Gum disease, if left untreated or poorly managed, can pose several risks and complications. Here are some of the potential risks associated with gum disease:
As gum disease progresses, the infection can damage the tissues and structures that support the teeth, including the gums, periodontal ligament, and jawbone. This can lead to tooth mobility and eventual tooth loss if not treated promptly.
Advanced gum disease can cause the gums to recede, resulting in the exposure of the tooth roots. This can lead to tooth sensitivity and increased susceptibility to decay.
Systemic Health Concerns
Research suggests that gum disease is associated with an increased risk of developing certain systemic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and respiratory infections. The inflammation and bacteria associated with gum disease can enter the bloodstream and potentially contribute to these health issues.
Severe gum disease can lead to the formation of abscesses or pockets of pus in the gums. These abscesses can be painful and may require drainage and antibiotic treatment to resolve the infection.
As gum disease advances and teeth become loose or shift, it can lead to changes in the bite alignment. This can cause difficulties in chewing and may require gum disease treatment with surgical intervention to prevent tooth loss and fix gum recession.
Gum disease can cause changes in the appearance of the gums, such as gum recession, swelling, redness, and an uneven gumline, affecting your smile’s appearance.
How do I prevent Gum Disease?
The good news is that gum disease is preventable and can be easily treated in the initial stages. All you need is a proactive approach towards your oral hygiene to avoid plaque buildup and a partnership between you and your dentist to ensure your teeth and gums are protected and maintained.
Here are some tips to help you prevent gum disease:
Get regular dental checkups & cleaning
Regular dental checkups help detect potential oral problems early, allowing for targeted treatment and negating the need for extensive procedures. Whether it’s gingivitis, an impacted wisdom tooth or the beginning of tooth decay, routine dental checkups allow your dentist to catch the issue before it can progress, preventing further damage or potential complications. Professional cleaning with scaling and polishing removes plaque and bacteria from inaccessible areas, periodontal pockets and the gumline before they can spread or lead to gum disease or bacterial infections.
At Superior Smiles, we offer the latest in hygiene treatments – Airflow and Guided Biofilm® Therapy. This is an innovative treatment specially formulated to target biofilm (plaque) with a combination of air, warm water, and powder particles for a whole mouth clean with minimal contact. Airflow Therapy cleans the teeth, gums and tongue, even around dental restorations and orthodontic appliances, removing stains and discolouration for a superior clean.
Cleaning between the teeth
While we may diligently brush our teeth twice a day, we often forget that our mouth is more than the front and back of the teeth. Cleaning between the teeth is where most of us fall short, leaving small particles of food which attract bacteria and lead to plaque, infections, and gum disease. It is essential to clean between the teeth to achieve optimal oral health and increased protection against bacteria. Flossing and interdental brushes (small brushes with bristles) are highly effective for cleaning between the teeth.
For flossing: Take about 45 cm of floss and wrap the ends around your fingers, leaving a little bit to work with. Gently insert the floss between two teeth, using a gentle back-and-forth motion. Curve the floss around each tooth in a C-shape, sliding it up and down along the sides of the teeth. Repeat this process for each tooth, including the back teeth, using a clean section of floss for each tooth.
For interdental brushes: Select the appropriate-sized brush that comfortably fits between your teeth or ask your dentist or hygienist for recommended size and brand. Gently insert the brush between the teeth, moving it back and forth a few times. Repeat this process for each space between your teeth, using a new brush when the bristles become frayed.
At Superior Smiles, we offer hygiene treatments tailored to your dental needs, evaluating your oral health to recommend appropriate products and tools, along with valuable tips on usage and oral hygiene maintenance.
Smoking and tobacco increase the risk of gum disease, tooth decay and mouth cancer. Tobacco weakens your immune system, hindering the ability to fight infections and the body’s natural healing process. Quitting smoking can help improve both your oral health and overall well-being, reducing the risk of gum disease, oral issues, and other health conditions.
Brush twice a day
Brush twice daily, using strong fluoride toothpaste to strengthen your tooth enamel. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush as harder ones can cause tooth and gum abrasion. Hold your toothbrush at a slight angle against your teeth, using circular motions to clean the inner and outer teeth surfaces, brushing back and forth on the molar. Glide the brush gently along the gumline and tongue to remove bacteria and achieve a thorough clean.
Use a therapeutic mouthwash
Rinse your mouth with an antimicrobial mouthwash to help reduce plaque and control bacteria. Talk to your dentist about recommended mouthwashes, or look for one specifically formulated for gum health and bacteria elimination. Pour the recommended amount of mouthwash into the cap or a measuring cup. The amount is usually given on the product label. Rinse and spit, avoiding eating or drinking for a couple of minutes after using the mouthwash. Use the mouthwash twice daily or as instructed on the label.
Prevent Gum Disease for a Lifetime of Healthy Smiles
At our Fremantle Clinic, we take a preventative and holistic approach to dental care to help you maintain optimal oral health and overall well-being. We strive to identify and treat the root causes of dental issues, providing comprehensive care that goes beyond mere symptom management. Let us be your partner on your gum health journey to guide you towards a healthier smile with dentists who always put you first. Talk to our friendly dentists to learn more about our personalised treatment plans.