How To Look After Your Gums
And the possible consequences if you don’t….
For many people, the focus of their dental care is on the teeth; both to make sure that they are strong and healthy, and increasingly, to ensure that they look good too. This is good news, but it can sometimes ignore another very important aspect of good oral care and that is the health of your gums.
Many of our patients are surprised when we tell them that poor gum health is a major contributor to tooth loss if it isn’t treated in time. It can also have a significant impact on our general health and social life as well, as we will see later. The good news though is that taking good care of your gums isn’t hard work and just takes a little care and attention, along with the help of the hygienist at the Clocktower Dental, Implant and Facial Centre Epsom.
The basics – cleaning
Most of us clean our teeth regularly and we probably think that we do it well. There is often room for improvement though, and along with ensuring that your toothbrush has healthy bristles and you use a fluoride toothpaste, the way that you brush can often be improved.
Many people tend to ‘flat brush’; that is they use the flat surface of the brush on the surface of the tooth. This will largely keep the tooth (or most of it anyway) clean. This method though does not enable the brush to clean around the gum line where food debris and bacteria are more likely to collect.
In order to clean this part of the tooth and beneath the gum line, you should angle the bristles towards the gums. This enables them to clean the parts that would otherwise be missed. Don’t forget that if you don’t already, you should start to use dental floss too so that the spaces between the teeth can be kept clean.
Gum disease stages
There are typically two key stages of gum disease. The first, gingivitis, is often relatively mild and can often be reversed both with better home cleaning and also a scale and polish which our team provides (more about that later). The second and more advanced stage is known as periodontitis. This is much more serious and is where the bacteria has reached the root of the tooth and, sometimes, the surrounding bone too. When this happens loose teeth are possible and you may even suffer from tooth loss. Unfortunately, treating this does require a more invasive ‘root scaling’ treatment and it is far better to prevent it from reaching this stage if at all possible.
Gum disease problems
As noted above, gum disease can lead to tooth loss, but even where it doesn’t, it can have a significant impact on our lives. Even mild gum disease can cause the gums to be painful and sore, making it difficult to eat in comfort. Bad breath is also a distinct possibility and can be socially embarrassing. It is not only our gums that can suffer too. Scientists are increasingly finding that research points to gum disease having an impact on our general health, with it being linked to heart problems and other diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.
Taking a bit more time and care to keep our gums clean is a simple thing that we can do to benefit both our oral and general health.
We mentioned a ‘scale and polish’ earlier. This is carried out by our Epsom oral hygienist. It is a non-invasive treatment that removes hardened bacteria and mineral deposits (known as tartar or calculus) from the teeth and gum line. It is not an uncomfortable procedure and we recommend that our patients have this done on a six monthly basis, whether or not you have any gum disease symptoms.
Root planing, on the other hand, does require invasive dentistry that has to be carried out by a suitably trained dentist. It involves cleaning deep below the gum line, including the tooth roots and surrounding bone. A local anaesthetic will be required for this treatment and, depending on the disease severity, it may need to be carried out over several appointments. Whilst this is the only treatment available if gum disease reaches this advanced stage, there is no guarantee that it will prevent the loss of a tooth. We can’t emphasise enough that you should take the following simple steps to avoid it from reaching this stage.
- Improve your home teeth and gum cleaning
- Use dental floss – ask the hygienist to show you how
- Have a scale and polish every six months, or more frequently if advised by us
These few simple steps can save you a lot of trouble and require little additional effort. We are here to help you have a healthy mouth and your gums play a major part in that. For advice on any issues with your teeth or gums, please make an appointment to see one of our friendly team by calling the Clocktower Dental, Implant and Facial Centre on 01372 720136.