We tend to pay more attention to our teeth than we do our gums. We want our smiles to look good and we want our teeth to stay strong so we can chew our food.
The fact is, your oral health is measured by more than whether your teeth are strong and cavity-free. The health of your gums could affect your overall health. At Legacy Smiles in Billings, MT, we know how important your gums are and we can keep them healthy.
How Does Gum Disease Happen?
Your gum tissue forms a tight seal around your teeth. This protects them from bacteria. If you don’t properly care for your teeth, plaque can form on them. If the plaque isn’t removed, your gums will become irritated and inflamed, causing gingivitis.
If gingivitis isn’t addressed, it can turn into periodontitis. Periodontitis can slowly destroy your gums and the bones around your teeth. Nearly 75 percent of Americans have gum disease but may not know it, according to the American Dental Hygienists Association.
The health risk associated with gum disease doesn’t stop at your mouth. Medical research has shown that people with periodontal disease could be at a higher risk of developing:
- Heart disease — Bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream. That can contribute to clot formation, which can obstruct the normal flow of blood to the heart.
- Respiratory illness — Some new research indicates that people with gum disease have an increased risk for illnesses like COPD, acute bronchitis, or pneumonia. Bacteria from gum disease can be in the upper throat area. When a person who has it breathes, that bacteria moves into the respiratory tract.
Do You Already Have Gum Disease?
Regular visits to the dentist can keep gum disease from happening in the first place. If you haven’t been to the dentist in awhile, here are some some signs to look for that could indicate your have gum disease, according to the American Dental Association.
- Bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
- Loose teeth or teeth that are separating
- Swollen, red, and tender gums
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Gums that are pulling away from your teeth
The earlier gum disease is caught, the better the chances it can be treated. Dr. Stuart at Legacy Smiles knows exactly what to look for.
What Can You Do?
You know the risks now. What can you do to prevent gum disease from happening in the first place?
- If you smoke, quit. There’s a strong connection between gum disease and smoking. Smoking weakens your immune system. That makes it harder to fight off periodontal disease and harder for your gums to heal after they’re been damaged.
- Brush at least twice a day. You should brush after every meal to remove food particles that might be trapped in your teeth. Brush your tongue as well since it can also harbor bacteria. Be sure not to brush too hard or use a toothbrush that has hard bristles. Doing that can actually damage the gum tissue.
- Floss regularly. Flossing gets in between the teeth and helps removed food and plaque that your toothbrush can’t reach.
- Make and keep regular dental cleanings and exams. During a routine dental checkup, we will start by cleaning your teeth. A hygienist will remove tartar from your teeth, then polish them with a slightly abrasive paste. Then, he or she will end by flossing your teeth.
At this point, Dr. Stuart will step in to do an examination of your teeth and gums. He’ll look for signs of decay in your teeth but he’ll also look for any gum swelling or redness. He will measure the depth of pockets around your teeth. Pockets are formed when gum tissue pulls away from the teeth four millimeters deep or greater. These pockets get deeper over time. That’s what he will be looking for.
If you’re diagnosed with gum disease, Dr. Stuart may do a deep cleaning, in which he removes bacteria and tartar that have collected under the gum line.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that gum disease is treatable.The sooner it’s diagnosed, the better the outcome.