Caring for Gums Means Strong Teeth and a Healthier Smile
A happy mouth requires healthy gums to support your teeth. At Rodeo Dental & Orthodontics, we like to remind patients that teeth aren’t the only part of your mouth susceptible to problems. Your gums can also be at risk for serious conditions like gingivitis and gum disease (periodontitis).
Left untreated, gum disease can lead to permanent bone and tissue damage as well as tooth loss. Gum disease is also associated with a number of serious systemic health conditions. So we encourage patients to pay attention to the health of their gums and to get proper care when necessary.
Healthy gums are pink and firm. Gingivitis causes your gums to become inflamed, swollen, and red. This is the earliest stage of gum disease and is actually a very common condition, although it is completely reversible with prompt dental care. Symptoms of gingivitis include:
- Red gums
- Swollen gums
- Gums that bleed easily (i.e. when brushing or flossing)
- Tender gums
- Receding gums
- Bad breath
Gingivitis should not be left untreated because it can quickly progress to a more serious form of gum disease. If you notice any of the symptoms above, contact Rodeo Dental to make an appointment.
Treatment for gingivitis includes a thorough dental cleaning to remove plaque and tartar buildup. Patients will then need to follow a regimen of oral products or routines at home to completely heal their mouths. The good news is that reversing gingivitis happens very quickly – within days or a few weeks.
Understanding Gum Disease
Gum disease, or periodontitis, is a serious infection of the gums that causes permanent damage to tissues and bones. Patients with gum disease develop pockets of plaque, tartar and bacteria between their teeth and gums. These pockets become deeper over time and, if left untreated, destroy bone in the jaw (causing loose teeth and tooth loss).
The severity of gum disease depends on how long the patient has avoided treatment. Symptoms of gum disease include:
- Bright red or purple looking gums
- Receding gums that make your teeth look longer
- Swollen and tender gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Space between the teeth that was not there before
- Bad breath
- A bad taste in the mouth
- Pus between the teeth and gums
- Loose teeth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together
It is important to remember that gum disease is mostly preventable through proper brushing and flossing habits and regular dental visits. It is also essential that gum disease is treated as early as possible to minimize health risks and permanent damage. Many patients are unaware that untreated gum disease can cause serious health problems like an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, premature and low birth weight babies, arthritis, asthma, and problems controlling diabetes.
Keeping Gums Healthy
Keeping your gums healthy requires the same type of care you give your teeth. We recommend that patients focus on their dental habits as well as other risk factors related to their overall health. Both of these areas affect your gums.
To improve your dental habits:
- Maintain good oral hygiene – Gum problems are most often caused by poor brushing and flossing habits. Make sure to brush at least twice a day and floss once.
- Replace your toothbrush regularly – To maximize plaque removal, make sure to replace your toothbrush every three to four months. Worn out bristles are less effective at keeping your gums healthy.
- Visit the dentist every six months – Plaque and tartar buildup increase the levels of bacteria in the mouth, which in turn increases your risk of gum irritation and infection. Your hygienist will use special tools to remove the buildup from your teeth that brushing can’t get rid of.
To manage other risk factors:
- Stop using tobacco products – Smoking and chewing tobacco can lead to a number of serious gum problems, including gum disease and oral cancer. Talk to your doctor about how to quit.
- Manage your medications – Some medications (like birth control pills) can increase your risk of gingivitis. If you notice problems after starting a new medication, talk to your doctor or your dentist about your options.
- Manage your health conditions – Some health conditions (like diabetes, HIV and pregnancy) can increase your risk of gingivitis. Make sure to work with your dentist to develop a routine that will maintain healthy gums while you manage your overall health.
- Follow a healthy diet and avoid added sugar – Focus on eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and drink unsweetened tea or water instead of sugary beverages.