Gum Care and Gum Disease

8 out of 10 people suffer from signs of gum disease and it is important to spot the warning signs early.

Gums play an important role in your mouth.

Healthy gums fit tightly around your teeth, and help to keep them in place and strong. They also cover and protect bone and root fibers underneath creating a barrier from harmful plaque and bacteria.

Healthy Gums are pink and firm with no areas of redness or swelling.

Good oral hygiene will help to keep gums healthy.

Some top tips for good oral hygiene are:

  • Make sure you brush; floss and rinse with mouthwash twice daily.
  • Change your toothbrush or brush head every three months.
  • Monitor your eating habits, with fewer sugary foods and drinks.
  • Try to give up smoking.
  • Have regular dental check-ups.

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What is gum disease?

You may think you’ll never suffer from a ‘disease’ of the mouth, but don’t let the name fool you, gum disease is extremely common and can happen at any age. It starts with the build up of plaque on and in between the teeth and can escalate quickly from there. Plaque is a mixture of food and bacteria that accumulates on your teeth after eating and if not removed by brushing, plaque starts to irritate and inflame the gums (known as gingivitis). When gingivitis is left untreated, the gums begin to recede from the teeth. This starts to leave a tiny 'pocket' at the base of the tooth that becomes increasingly difficult to brush properly.

cause of gum disease

Any plaque that can’t be removed then slowly starts to harden to something called tartar. If this tartar continues to build up, then further irritation and inflammation around the gum occurs – and this could lead to gum disease.

 

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Advanced gum disease (periodontitis)

As tartar builds, the inflammation it causes slowly begins to affect the bones around the teeth, until some of the tooth root may become visible. Dentists call this chronic periodontitis and it causes the teeth to loosen to the point where they may fall out or need to be taken out by a dentist.

What are the symptoms?

Many people with gum disease are unaware they have a problem because it's often 'silent' with no pain or symptoms. However there are a few things you might notice which could indicate early stages of gum disease:

  • The first sign of gum disease is usually bleeding from your gums when you brush your teeth.
  • Gums may become swollen, red and uncomfortable.
  • You may have bad breath.
  • There may be an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

More advanced gum disease can lead to loosening of the teeth or even abscesses in the gum.

Who is most at risk?

Although anyone can get gum disease, it's more likely in people who don't clean their teeth regularly or those who find it difficult to clean their teeth properly. Braces, dentures and irregularities in tooth shape or spacing can all make it difficult to reach an area with a toothbrush.

Other factors that may lead to gum disease are:

  • As if there weren’t already enough reasons to quit smoking, it’s one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of gum disease.* It can also lower the chances for successful treatment.
  • Hormonal changes in girls/women can make gums more sensitive and make it easier for gingivitis to develop.*
  • There are hundreds of prescription and over the counter medications that can reduce the flow of saliva. Saliva has a protective effect on the mouth. Without it, the mouth is vulnerable to infections such as gum disease. Some medications can also cause abnormal overgrowth of the gum tissue, which can make it difficult to keep gums clean.*
  • Unfortunately some people are just more prone to severe gum disease than others.

What can I do about gum disease?

Your dentist may recommend using:

  • An antiseptic mouthwash such as LISTERINE® to help reduce the formation of plaque in the future.
  • An electric toothbrush - tests have shown that those with an oscillating-rotating action (head rotates back and forth) remove more plaque than manual ones. **

*http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/GumDiseases/PeriodontalGumDisease.htm
**http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/mouthandteeth/gumdisease.htm

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