September is National Gum Care Month, so let’s talk about everything related to gums. This month is a good time to reflect on your dental health and commit to taking better care of your gums. Sometimes, we forget your gums help keep your teeth in their place and functioning at top capacity. When your gums are damaged, you risk losing your teeth!
Protecting your gums is simple; brushing and flossing every day is part of a personal dental hygiene practice as well as keeping routine dental cleanings. This way, tartar can be removed and your teeth polished. Your gums can also be checked for signs of trouble and to treat problems early. Stick to a balanced diet to give your gums the nutrients they need to fight disease.
Treating gum disease is most effective when done in the early stage of gum disease because treatment can reverse the progress of gum disease. Once your gums are fighting serious infection, it’s harder to treat and progressively worsens. Like most things medically related, preventative care supports your oral and general health most effectively. When teeth are lost (other than teeth that are pulled for a purpose like wisdom teeth or tooth extraction procedures), the cause is often progressive gum disease. Gum disease is a common problem in our country, affecting around 67 million Americans.
Gum disease is broken down into two types. The mild version is the early stage, called gingivitis. Over time it progresses into periodontitis, a more dangerous phase. Both are caused by bacterial toxins leading to infection. In the gingivitis stage, you’ll see your gums as red, swollen, painful, and bleeding. In the later stage, you’ll see infection from inflammation in the gums, ligaments, and bone surrounding the teeth loosening teeth that either fall out or need to be removed from bone loss.
We urge you to tell your dentist right away if you notice that your gums are bleeding, find sores in your mouth, have gum pain or find yourself with an unpleasant taste in your mouth along with bad breath. Having your gums checked and treated right away will help them stay healthier, longer, and with minimal damage.
Advancing periodontitis involves rapid gum recession. This version often appears with young people having a growth spurt. They may be deficient in vitamins that protect the gums, rather than being overrun by bad oral bacteria. Once gum disease advances because of periodontitis, you may see spurts of infection mingled with improvement as you receive treatment. But gum disease affects the rest of your health, not just your mouth. As a systemic disease, gum disease will spread through your bloodstream to other organs in the body, resulting in inflammation related to diabetes, heart disease and even autoimmune issues.
Avoiding gum disease means stopping bacterial plaque in the mouth that leaves a sticky film coating your teeth that you can feel when you run your tongue across them. Brushing twice a day for two minutes each session – followed by flossing – removes harmful bacteria to keep it from building up and hardening into tartar. Some tartar buildup is inevitable around the gum line, and this is one of the main reasons you see your dentist for a professional cleaning every six months. As gingivitis progresses and the gums start to recede from the teeth, bacterial plaque hardens into tartar inside the pockets around the teeth. Without intervention, the bone and ligaments keeping your teeth in position continue to deteriorate until they loosen.
Keep your gums pink and healthy by using a soft-bristled toothbrush (replacing when the bristles start to fray) and enamel strengthening toothpaste. Don’t forget to floss and use an antibacterial mouthwash. Fend off dry mouth by staying hydrated throughout your day and chewing sugar-free gum or lozenges. Be sure to control diabetes if you have it, and quit tobacco use. Limit the sugar in your diet, and incorporate more nutrient-dense and vitamin-rich foods like fruits, vegetables and calcium.
National Gum Care Month is a great time to see your dentist if you have any concerns about your gums. Once gum disease is a problem for you, you may also need to see a periodontist, endodontist or oral surgeon who can help reverse gum disease. Your smile deserves the best care, so contact our team today!