Many people are aware of the impact of diabetes or heart disease, but don’t hear about the effects of gum disease as much. While you may think of your gums as somewhat unimportant, gum disease can have serious consequences to your teeth and overall health. Below, you’ll learn more about this common condition and how a dentist can help prevent, diagnose, and treat it. With this information, you can maintain your smile and improve your health at the same time!
Your Gums Are Just As Important As Your Teeth
Good oral health depends on strong, cavity-free teeth. But teeth depend on the gums and underlying bone to support them and keep them in place. Gum disease is the #1 cause of tooth loss because it damages these supportive structures.
If left untreated, gum disease can eventually cause the teeth to become loose and fall out over time.
The Mouth-Body Connection
Your mouth and body are connected, so it makes sense that gum disease can negatively impact your general health.
Many studies have been done in recent years and researchers believe that chronically inflamed gums lead to inflammation in the rest of the body, including the brain and the heart.
In turn, this systemic inflammation increases the risk of:
- Heart Disease
- Certain types of cancer
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Pregnancy complications
How Is Gum Disease Diagnosed and Treated?
Fortunately, getting a diagnosis and treatment is as easy as scheduling a checkup. These visits include an annual gum exam to look for any signs of gum disease such as bleeding, swollen, or tender gums, or deep “pockets” of gum tissue around the teeth.
The goal is to diagnose any issues as early as possible when treatment is the most effective. If your gums are currently healthy or you simply have gingivitis, regular cleanings and good oral hygiene will usually prevent gum disease altogether.
However, if you’re diagnosed with more advanced stages, a dentist will discuss your options for gum disease therapy. In most cases, a procedure called scaling and root planing (also called a “deep cleaning”) is done first to stabilize your gums.
This special cleaning is usually done in 2-4 visits and is designed to thoroughly remove tartar and bacteria under the gumline and smooth the roots of the teeth to prevent bacteria from re-accumulating.
You may also benefit from the placement of topical antibiotics under the gumline to directly target the bacteria that cause gum disease.
To maintain your gum health after your initial treatment, you’ll be asked to come back for professional cleanings every 3, 4, or 6 months, depending on your needs. You’ll also get oral hygiene tips to keep everything clean at home, which is critical for managing this condition.
Gum disease has serious consequences. But, with regular professional care, you can reduce your risks and enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles!
About the Author
Dr. Joanne Bancroft completed her residency at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine and is a family dentist with over 15 years of experience. She always closely evaluates every aspect of her patients’ oral health at each visit so she can identify and manage issues like gum disease as early as possible. If you have any questions or concerns about your gums, she can be reached via her website.