What Is Gum Disease?
Toothpaste ads and mouth rinse commercials alike all claim their product will ultimately achieve the same goal: fight gum disease. But when we all think of disease, most of us have a different picture in our mind that doesn’t involve gums at all. So what really is gum disease? We will explore that question, along with how to know if you have gum disease and how to treat it.
Gum Disease is well, a Disease
Did you know you can have perfectly white, straight teeth and still have gum disease? Gum disease or gingivitis (or if it progresses, periodontitis) is very prevalent among adults. In fact, at one point the CDC reported that half of adults in the US have some form of gum disease*. Because it affects the tissue that surrounds and holds in the teeth, people can have gum disease and not realize it.
Gum disease is simply an infection of the gums and bone that hold your teeth in. Our mouths house billions of bacteria, and “bad bacteria” can grow in colonies on teeth and under the gums and wage war against the soft tissue holding teeth in. The plaque or tartar that build up on teeth is made up of bacterial colonies, and grows underneath the gums as well, putting the bone holding the tooth in and the gums in jeopardy. The body tries to fight off the bacterial infection with an immune response, which is noticeable with red, tender, or swollen gums or bleeding when brushing or flossing.
Do I Have Gum Disease?
Indicators for gum disease are red or inflamed gums, bad breath, bleeding gums, or gums that are receding. You may not notice these symptoms unless you look for them. Bleeding during brushing and flossing is a good indicator that disease is present, although a lot of patients don’t realize bleeding when flossing isn’t “normal”. But think about washing your hair: if you were rinsing the shampoo and noticed blood rinsing down the drain you would think something was not right. The same goes for when you are brushing or flossing.
At Spokane Dental, we perform assessments of the tooth, bone, and soft tissue in the mouth at every appointment. We can diagnose your gum disease, educate on its effects and treatment, and make a custom plan for you to get you back to health.
How Do I Treat My Gum Disease?
At home, proper brushing twice a day and flossing once a day is essential to preventing and fighting gum disease. Because it is caused by a bacterial infection literally stuck to the teeth, the only way to remove the infection is by removing the bacteria. Proper brushing and flossing will remove that infection causing bacteria. It is also essential to get regular teeth cleanings. At your dental visits we not only perform assessments and check for cavities, but your hygienist also has specialized tools they use to remove plaque that has hardened into calculus over time. At home, patients can ensure that the surface of the tooth above the gums is clean, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a whole landscape of area for bacteria to grow attached to the tooth and root under the gums that only a hygienist can remove. Regular dental cleanings are the best way to prevent infection.
At Spokane Dental, we love partnering with our patients to help them achieve their best health! If you would like to schedule an appointment, call our friendly office staff today at (509)822-5614