Let’s see those white pearls! You hear it all the time, but when did anybody want to see your full pink gums last time? While they may be destined to play their dark, show-stealing counterparts in second fiddle, gums are your mouth’s unsung hero. Gingiva (i.e., gums), together with the underlying bone, is the tissue that surrounds and protects the teeth. Gums are connected to the teeth, creating a bond that protects the underlying bone and creates an infection barrier.
Like most unsung heroes, until a problem arises, gums are usually given little thought. Sadly, the time has come for many of us. A research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that almost half of Americans aged 30 and older have periodontitis (the advanced form of periodontal disease).
Gum disease begins when plaque builds up under and along the gum line, a sticky, bacteria-filled film. Plaque can cause gum disease and tooth decay infections, including gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. The bad news is that the gums get inflamed, swollen, and susceptible to bleeding even at this early stage of gingivitis. The good news is that the damage is reversible since the bone and tissue holding the teeth in place are not affected. Gingivitis, however, could turn into parodontitis if left untreated. Parodontitis affects the bones that keep the teeth in place, unlike gingivitis. Parodontitis can ruin your teeth’s gums, bones and tissues without treatment.
Not all infection of the gum requires surgery. In fact, professional dental cleaning already includes removing plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line (the primary cause of gum disease). Scaling and root planing are another non-surgical form of treatment. Scaling and root planing is another non-surgical form of treatment. This procedure is essentially a deep-cleaning under anesthesia where the hardened plaque and tartar are scraped away and any rough spots on the root of the tooth are smoothed to create a clean surface for the gums to be re-attached. It may also be recommended the use of antibiotics to control plaque and gum tissue inflammation.
In some cases, all that is required is non-surgical procedures; however, surgery is needed if the tissue around the teeth is damaged and can not be healed with non-surgical options. Providers may prescribe surgery to reduce flaps or pockets in these cases. During this procedure, the gums of a patient are lifted back in order to remove tartar and smooth the damaged bone. This results in a reduction of space between the gum and tooth, limiting the areas where bacteria can hide.
Most surgical techniques involve grafts of bone and soft tissue. Bone grafts use your own bone, synthetic bone, or donated bone fragments to replace and regenerate bone in areas destroyed by parodontal disease. This operation restores the stable connection of the teeth to the bone of a patient. Soft tissue grafts use grafted tissue, most commonly taken from the mouth’s roof, to reinforce thin gums or fill in areas where gums have fallen back.
Guided tissue regeneration may be a treatment option in cases where the bone has been destroyed. A small piece of mesh-like material is inserted between the bone and gum tissue, which is performed in conjunction with flap surgery. This prevents the gum tissue from growing into the area where the bone is supposed to be and allows the bone and connective tissue to grow back to better support the teeth.
Even if you have sterling, white teeth that are cavity-free, you are not immune to gum disease. Most people don’t even know anything is wrong because the early stages are usually painless.
While plaque is the primary cause of gum disease, other factors that can contribute to periodontal disease include:
Hormonal changes like those that happen during pregnancy, puberty, menopause, and menstruation make gums more responsive, making gingivitis easier to develop.
Illnesses can also affect the gums ‘ health. Recent studies have suggested a correlation between periodontal disease and several other diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Scientists believe that the link between these systemic diseases can be focused on inflammation.
Medications can also affect oral health because some lessen the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on teeth and gums.
Smoking makes it harder for gum tissue to repair itself.
Family history of dental disease can also be a contributing factor in the development of gingivitis.
Brush 2x a day
Get regular dental cleanings
Use fluoride toothpaste
Use a therapeutic mouthwash
Since they neutralize oral bacteria, onions are a great food for healthy gums. They have microbial properties that target the most common types of bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.
Leafy greens are full of healthy vitamins and minerals, such as kale and spinach. This includes vitamin C, which increases red blood cell production and reduces inflammation. Both of these reinforce your fight against gum disease and irritation.
Celery, carrots, and apples (including naturally crunchy foods) are good for scraping meat and plaque stuck on. The hard pieces of these foods get into the crevices between the teeth and the tooth, which helps to keep your mouth fresh between the brushings. They also take longer to chew and generate more saliva, helping to flush the bacteria’s mouth near the line of the gum.
Dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, are also great for teeth because they contain a protein called casein, which helps neutralize oral acids produced by bacteria in the mouth.
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to be born to suffer the debilitating consequences even if you have a family history of gum disease. You can maintain healthy gums through good oral hygiene, regular dental check-ups, and increased intake of the above-mentioned foods. Please contact our practice if you have any questions about your gums or are concerned about your oral health in general.