Be Nice to Your Gums

gum diseaseSure your gums look all pink and wimpy. Don’t be fooled. These bodyguards of your tooth roots are tough customers, despite their cotton candy appearance.

While they are tough, your gums still need you to take care of them. Prevention is the key to keeping them healthy. Really all you need to do is be diligent with your home brushing and flossing, and keep your twice-yearly appointments for professional cleanings and exams with Dr. Miller.

Ignore that advice at your own peril because it will end with gum disease, and you don’t want that.

Periodontal disease is the medical term for gum disease, periodontitis if you want to get downright clinical. It involves infection of the gums that can end up with tooth loss and an extra spot in the next season of Duck Dynasty.

The good thing about periodontitis is that it is almost wholly preventable. It all begins with dental plaque, the sticky film that forms on your teeth throughout the day. Plaque has lots of bacteria in it. Dental plaque is easy to remove with daily brushing and flossing. In fact, a good home dental hygiene program of brushing twice daily for two minutes and flossing once a day is usually enough for most people to never have to deal with gum disease.

But if you pay more attention to clipping your toenails than home dental hygiene, and if you throw in lifestyle choices such as smoking, plaque can have its way with your mouth. When plaque isn’t removed it hardens into calculus, also known as tartar. Once tartar forms it doesn’t belong on fish sticks; it can only be removed by a professional hygienist.

First comes gingivitis, then comes periodontitis

Fortunately, gum disease isn’t like some other diseases — you don’t simply wake up one day and have it. Gum disease gives plenty of warning. The bacteria in plaque produce toxins that irritate the gums. Irritated gums are not happy gums, and they become red and bleed easily. Plus, the tartar that has formed gradually makes its way below the gumline, leading to more irritation. This irritation is called gingivitis.

You may be the busiest person this side of a beaver in the Cascades, but at this point you can still reverse things with a professional cleaning from Dr. Miller and his team, along with more dedicated home hygiene. But if you think you’re just too busy and opt to stay away, the gum irritation worsens and the gums begin to pull away from the teeth causing pockets to form. These pockets hold all the bacteria from the plaque and that bacteria begin to attack the roots of the teeth. You can see where this is leading — tooth loss and jawbone deterioration.

Now, a trip to our office will be necessary just to keep your teeth. Dr. Miller will need to do things such as gum planing and scaling. You may receive an antibiotic prescription if infection has taken hold. A root canal could be required to save a tooth or teeth.

And to think, all of this could have been prevented with simple brushing and flossing at home, combined with twice-yearly visits to Dr. Miller’s office. Is it time for your next checkup? Call us at 503-640-9310 to make your appointment.

Posted in: Gum Diseases

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