Most people worry about cavities above all, but poor gum health is even more likely to result in lost teeth. Even worse is that many people have periodontal disease without even knowing it.
We offer a gum exam at every visit to make sure your gums are free of disease.
How can I keep my gums healthy?
Flossing is the most important step you can take. When plaque gets stuck between your teeth it can attack your gums. Your toothbrush can never get into the spaces you can floss. You should floss at least twice a day, right after brushing your teeth.
A good adjunct (or backup treatment) for flossing would be the use of a WaterPik device. It can help flush out large pieces of food debris that floss may otherwise have a harder time removing. This is especially useful in individuals with gum recession and/or extensive restorations (like crowns/bridges) that may trap excess food debris. However, a WaterPik is not a substitute for flossing!
You also can fight infection by using a good mouthwash. Mouthwash is not a substitute for brushing and flossing, but it can kill some bacteria.
Regular check-ups are important, too. There are spaces a dentist can reach that you can’t reach even with floss. Also, some people have a genetic predisposition to gum disease. For such people regular professional cleaning is the best way to keep gums healthy.
How do I know if I have gum disease?
If your gums are red, puffy, painful, or bleeding you should schedule a check-up right away. Those are all signs of gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease.
As gum disease progresses it becomes periodontitis. Once you have periodontitis your gums will begin receding from your tooth root. You may even lose some of your jaw bone as the condition deteriorates. We can track the disease state by measuring the depth of small pockets that form between your gums and your teeth. The deeper the pockets, the greater the progression of the disease.
Advanced gum disease robs your teeth of the soft tissue and bony support they need to stay in place. Allowing the disease to progress puts you at high risk of tooth loss.
Some people don’t get any pain or bleeding, so it’s possible to have gum disease without knowing it. Regular check-ups will help you maintain your gum health.
Can gum disease be cured?
Gum disease can be treated, but not cured. Left alone, it tends to come back.
We can treat it in one of three ways. The first is through a non-surgical procedure called scaling and root-planing. This deep-cleaning method gets at the tartar under the gumline, giving your gums a clean surface to reattach to. With good follow-up care you can keep the disease from returning. We usually recommend patients come back every three or four months for a maintenance cleaning.
Gum surgery and gum grafts may be necessary if the disease progresses too far. If you begin losing jaw bone you may lose teeth. Sometimes we recommend an extraction to preserve the health of the surrounding gums, teeth, and bone. Dental implants can help, but a bone graft and a gum graft may be necessary before we can place the implants.