Your Gums Deserve Top Dental Care, Too!
You take great care of your teeth, but do you know if your gums are healthy, too? Most adults over 30 have some form of gum disease, but many don’t even know!
Dr. Harry J. Kiriluk and his team are committed to caring for your entire smile, including your gums. We use comprehensive and proactive treatment to help your gums stay healthy and your smile stay beautiful.
Are your gums in need of extra care? Make an appointment today to make sure your entire smile is getting the care it needs.
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Is Gum Disease Serious?
It’s easy to overlook gum disease in the early stages, but it should never be underestimated. Gum disease is, in fact, the number one cause of tooth loss in adults. When the gums fail to support and protect tooth roots, the teeth become loose, and eventually may fall out or become diseased and need extracting. To prevent this, it’s important to understand how and why gum disease happens.
Stage One: Gingivitis
Gingivitis literally means “inflamed gums”, and is the first stage of gum disease. Bacteria living on the tooth enamel turn food into plaque, which is acidic and irritates the gums. The plaque then hardens into tartar, reaching even below the gum line and causing them to become inflamed.
At this stage, the gums are highly sensitive, prone to bleeding when brushing or flossing and pain when touched or exposed to heat and cold. If the situation isn’t addressed, the bacteria can worsen the situation, leading to stage two.
Stage Two: Periodontitis
As gum disease worsens, the gums gradually begin pulling away from the roots of teeth. This creates pockets of open space beneath the gum line, where bacteria and other irritants gather. The presence of bacteria causes these spaces to widen, pulling the gums away more and damaging the tooth roots.
An abscess may form within the gums where the infection appears, causing pain, swelling, and further damage if ruptured.
Stage Three: Advanced Periodontitis
The most severe form of gum disease happens as the infected pockets deepen. The gums not only pull away, but begin to shrink, as does the jaw bone. Eventually, the teeth don’t have enough support and tooth loss occurs.
In either stage of periodontitis, gum disease can pose a threat to your overall health as well. Bacteria can spread from the original infection site via the bloodstream, leading to secondary infections elsewhere in the body. In the worst cases, the heart or brain can become infected, which can have potentially lethal effects.
How Did I Get Gum Disease?
Most people assume that you don’t get gum disease as long as you brush and floss. However, there can be many causes that lead to gum disease. Being aware of these factors in your life can help you minimize the risk and promote better gum health.
The most common risk factors include:
- Poor or infrequent brushing and flossing
- Lots of sugary or acidic foods in your diet
- Smoking and tobacco use
- Misaligned teeth making it hard to brush or floss
- Side effects of prescription medications
- Hormone changes, especially during pregnancy
Certain health factors can also increase your risk of gum disease. People with diabetes especially need to pay close attention to their gums, as both diabetes and gum disease can worsen the symptoms of the other, creating a cycle of disease.
People with dry mouth, often caused by medication, are also likely to develop gum disease. Some people even have genetic factors that make them more likely to develop it, so it’s important to pay close attention to your family’s health history.
Can Gum Disease Be Reversed?
The earliest stage of gum disease, gingivitis, happens when the gums are inflamed due to irritation from plaque and tartar. However, if the irritants are quickly removed through a dental cleaning, followed by good hygiene at home, the gums may be able to return to a healthy state.
If an infection has caused the gums to recede, however, they won’t grow back on their own even if the infection is successfully treated. To restore the gum line, surgical procedures like a gum graft may be needed. Furthermore, gums that have suffered periodontitis are more likely to become infected again, so special monitoring is needed to protect them from a relapse.
When to See the Dentist
Typically, the dentist or hygienist can identify signs of gum disease during your six-month exam and cleaning. If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, however, these are the signs that it’s time to see the dentist about your gums:
- Red or swollen gums
- Bleeding gums
- Sensitivity to touch and temperatures
- A receding gum line
- Loose teeth
- Pain in or around your teeth
- An abscess in the gums
To decide on your treatment, the dentist performs a thorough exam of your gums, evaluating the level of disease. This includes evaluating their color, level of gum recession, and the depths of pockets beneath the gums.
Professional Cleaning: If the gum disease is still in its early stages, a series of professional cleanings may be recommended. These cleanings help to remove plaque and tartar buildup both above and beneath the gum line.
Scaling and Root Planing: Sometimes called a deep cleaning, this procedure is used when the pocket depth below the gums reaches a certain level. First, the bacteria are eliminated from the pocket with applications of an antibacterial rinse or medication.
Then, special tools are used to clear tartar from the root (scaling) and smooth out the root surface (root planing). A smoother root makes it easier for the gums to reattach to the tooth.
Surgical Treatments: If the gums have receded or the pockets have grown exceptionally large, surgery such as gum grafts or pocket reduction may be called for. The dentist will explain the next steps to you and what must be done to protect your teeth and keep the gum disease from worsening.
Once your periodontal treatment is complete, your gums will need to be carefully monitored to ensure that no infection returns. The dentist may recommend increasing your dental exams and cleanings to every three months to give your gums a better chance at recovery.
Your oral care routine at home is vital to helping your gums heal. Follow the dentist’s instructions carefully after your treatment, especially involving any medications such as antibiotics. Be sure to complete the full course of antibiotics, or it could lead to even worse infections in the future.
Want to Take Better Care of Your Gums? These are Our Top 5 Tips!
- Brush Twice a Day: Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and be sure to brush over every area where your teeth and gums meet. If possible, brush after every meal as often as you can.
- Floss Once a Day: Floss carefully between each tooth to remove plaque and debris. If you struggle with flossing between all teeth, consider using a water flosser for added cleanliness.
- Drink Plenty of Water: A dry mouth is hard on your gums. Drinking water moisturizes the gums and also helps to rinse away food and lingering sugars.
- Stop Smoking: Constant exposure to tobacco and smoke causes serious damage to the gums and prevents them from healing. Removing tobacco from your life allows the gums a chance to recover.
- Reduce Sugars, Starches, and Acidic Foods: Foods in this category make it easier for bacteria to grow and harm the gums. Try to limit your intake of these foods, and rinse your mouth whenever you do eat them.
Caring for Gums Across Schaumburg
At our dental office, we’re passionate about helping each of our patients enjoy healthy smiles in every way. Dr. Kiriluk and his talented team will do all they can to help you understand and care for your gums so they can continue to care for you and your teeth.
It’s time to take the best possible care of your gums! Click below to contact our office and schedule a visit today.
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