One of the major challenges faced by professionals in the dental field is educating patients about the prevention and treatment of gum disease. There is a common misapprehension that dentistry revolves solely around the care of teeth. The fact of the matter is that keeping one’s gums healthy might actually be vastly more important. Think about it carefully. A building cannot possibly maintain its structure if the foundation is flaky. The same logic applies to teeth. Pearly whites need a strong foothold and healthy gums provide this structure and support.
Gum disease can be tricky to spot — for an untrained eye at least. The reason for this is that it can range from mild inflammation to serious soft tissue damage. No matter how inflamed the gums are, the disease needs to be treated immediately to prevent intense pain, bleeding and perhaps even tooth loss. As soon as any infection is discovered, proper mouth hygiene needs to be implemented. Brushing, flossing and rinsing with disinfectant mouthwash is of the utmost importance. In mild cases of infection, this will be enough to cure the disease. In more serious cases, the dentist may need to take a more intense course of action.
Essentially, gum disease is caused by the natural bacteria that lives in our mouths. Regular brushing and rinsing prevents this bacteria from building up plaque on the tooth enamel. If proper hygiene is not maintained, plaque build-up begins to take hold of the tooth creating a hard, yellowish layer on the surface of the teeth. This hardened layer cannot be removed by mere brushing, but a quick polish at the dentist’s office should do the trick. If the plaque is not removed it begins to cause cavities on the tooth and infects the gums as well. This infection is referred to as “gingivitis”.
If gingivitis remains untreated, it will lead to serious gum disease (also known as “periodontis”). Inflammation of the gums takes hold around the base of the tooth, causing the gums to pull away from the root and creating pocketed areas which are particularly susceptible to disease. Plaque may spread further down the tooth into the root. The bone begins to whittle away, making teeth very sensitive and prone to pain. The weakened bone structure, bleeding gums and general fragility of the mouth region might cause teeth to become loose; necessitating removal.
In order to treat gum disease, dentists may prescribe a range of different antibiotic treatments such as mouth rinses, topical gels or proper courses of oral medication. An antiseptic chip might be placed into the gum in an attempt to reduce the growth of bacteria. A deep cleaning method (referred to as “scaling and root planning”) which goes right down into the gum pockets may be employed in order to remove plaque further down the tooth. Some modifications in diet and personal habit (a reduction of caffeine or prevention of smoking) might also be suggested by the dentist. In cases of extreme infection, surgery may be necessary.