Gum disease is the most common reason that patients lose their teeth. However, a lot of patients are not aware that they have gum disease, the problems it can cause if left untreated and how to prevent tooth decay.
Most people understand that consuming too much sugar will lead to tooth decay but not as many are aware that diabetes or having a dry mouth increases your chances of gum disease.
Gum disease can show itself in many ways, from swollen and bleeding gums in its early stages to loose teeth and recession in their later stages, eventually leading to tooth loss.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease starts when there is an unreasonably high, and growing, number of bacteria in your mouth. As the number of bacteria builds up, they attach themselves to the teeth at the level of the gums and is often referred to as plaque. If the bacteria are not brushed away, over time the minerals from your saliva will harden the plaque and turn it into calculus, or tartar. This hardened tartar cannot be brushed away with a toothbrush.
A build-up of plaque and tartar in the mouth will begin to irritate the gums, causing them to swell and bleed and lead to bad breath. At this early stage, gum disease is called gingivitis.
If left untreated, and allowed to progress, the gums begin to shrink back or recede over time, losing their grip on the teeth. As the gum shrinks back, so does the underlying bone and without the support of both structures, teeth will become loose. This more advanced stage of gum disease is called periodontitis.
How Can You Prevent Gum Disease?
There is a lot that you can do to prevent gum disease, including seeing our Cambridge hygienist.
Firstly, its really important that you maintain good oral hygiene at home – clean twice a day, use interdental brushes and/or floss and an alcohol-free mouthwash. It’s important to remove all trapped bacteria – especially the ones in hard-to-reach places like along the gum line or between teeth.
Smoking also increases the likelihood of you having gum disease, as well as the severity of the level of disease. So do stop smoking, and it’s one of the first things any dental professional will talk to you about if you are one. It also increases your risk of oral cancer.
It’s also important to control your blood sugar levels if you are diabetic – gum disease is more prevalent in diabetics and your gums are more susceptible to disease if it is poorly controlled.
How Can We Help You?
Several members of our team can help play an important role in the prevention and management of gum disease.
Have regular check-ups so the dentist can check the health of your gums regularly – they can identify if you have gum disease and take action to help you manage it if you do have it.
The hygienist is someone you should see regularly – at least every 4-6 months. They can get into all the hard-to-reach spaces to remove trapped plaque and calculus to ensure they do not irritate your gums. This is really important to help stabilise the health of your gums if you do suffer from gum disease, and probably the biggest thing you can do to prevent tooth loss. She can also educate you on how to best clean your teeth – how to brush and what additional tools to use to clean as well as you can.
See a gum specialist – a ‘periodontist’. At Cambridge Dental, we have a gum specialist who has lots of advanced training and experience in treating even the most severe cases of gum disease. You should be referred to one if you present with a high level of disease or if it cannot be managed by the dentist and hygienist alone.
We hope we have educated you on how to look after your gums and given you some advice on getting the best care. We have a gum care specialist on the team who can help you if you are suffering from gum disease. Call us at Cambridge Dental in Cambridge to arrange a consult with one of our team members today.