Maintaining good gum health is crucial if we are to keep our teeth for life as the gums are the foundations upon which the teeth rely on for support. Healthy gums result in a mouth that looks, feels and smells better. Having healthy gums also improves our overall wellbeing as gum disease is linked to diabetes and heart disease!
In addition to regular professional cleans, a good home care regime involving both brushing and cleaning between the teeth is crucial in achieving and maintaining gum health.
Most people will miss some areas when cleaning their teeth. In these areas a germy film called “plaque” remains on the teeth and gums. This plaque causes tooth decay and makes the gums inflamed. The technical term for inflamed gums is “gingivitis”. Gingivitis often shows up as bleeding gums.
The plaque we miss with our at-home cleaning eventually hardens like cement and sticks to the teeth – this buildup is called calculus or tartar. Tartar buildup is usually most obvious on the backs of the lower front teeth and is visible as a yellow or brown build up. No amount of brushing or flossing can remove it, but your dentist has special tools to do the job. Similar to plaque, if left on the teeth and gums for extended periods of time, tartar can cause to decay and gum disease. This highlights the importance of regular professional cleans.
In some individuals gingivitis, if left untreated, can lead to a more serious form of gum disease called “periodontitis”. Periodontitis is where there is damage to the gums and underlying bone which hold the teeth in place. Signs and symptoms of periodontitis include red, swollen, tender, painful or bleeding gums. Bad breath, moving of teeth and loose teeth are also common. Periodontitis is a major cause of tooth loss in people over 30.
As gum health contributes to general health, our general health also impacts on our gum health. Smoking, uncontrolled diabetes, stress, and a compromised immune system can all contribute to periodontitis.
In treating gingivitis and periodontitis, your dentist will note the areas you are missing during your at-home cleaning and give you tips on how to improve. Your dentist may discuss broader health issues which may be impacting on your gum health. A thorough clean of the teeth and gums is performed to remove any plaque and tartar. A professional clean is typically best performed every 6 months although this can vary from person to person.