Do You Know How to Avoid Gum Disease?
These Simple Steps Can Keep Your Teeth and Gums Healthy!
If you remember from our discussion last week, my patient Karen was suffering from symptoms of gum disease. Specifically, Karen had red and swollen gums that often bled after she brushed her teeth or ate crunchy or tough foods. Our first priority was to treat Karen’s existing gum disease.
Depending on the severity of infection and the amount of damage to the gum tissue, bones, and teeth, dentists treat gum disease in some of the following ways…
Professional Dental Cleanings
The first step to combating gum disease is almost always a professional cleaning with a dentist. Only a dentist can remove tartar buildup on the teeth. Often a dentist will use the process of scaling and root planing to clear away plaque and tartar and allow the gum tissue to heal. During tooth scaling your dentist will scrape away plaque and tartar beneath the gums either manually or with an ultrasonic cleaner. The process of planing involves your dentist then smoothing the jagged root that is exposed by the cleaning, so that the gum tissue can heal and adhere to the smooth surface of the root.
In treating Karen’s gum disease we used scaling and planing to thoroughly clean her teeth and gums of plaque and tartar. After her teeth were cleaned Karen began taking better care of her teeth, brushing twice a day and flossing regularly, to keep her teeth and gums in great shape. Although Karen’s condition didn’t require any additional medical treatment, there are options for treating more severe cases of gum disease after a teeth cleaning.
Medicated Mouth Rinses
Sometimes you will need to use a medicated mouth rinse after your dental scaling and planing. Your doctor may prescribe a medicated mouth rinse in order to kill existing bacteria in your mouth, prevent new bacteria from adhering to your teeth and gums, or reduce pain and swelling in your mouth. These mouth rinses are quite effective when combined with regular professional cleanings and good daily oral hygiene practices.
For severe cases of gum disease, in which the bone, teeth, or connective tissues have been damaged or depleted, surgery may be necessary. Surgery can decrease the size of the pocket between the gum and the teeth, making infection less likely. There are also periodontal surgeries to help regenerate healthy bone tissue and stabilize your teeth, and to cover roots exposed by receding gums. Surgical treatment for periodontal disease is generally reserved for more severe cases in which gum disease has caused damage to soft tissue, teeth, or bones.
We were able to effectively combat Karen’s gum disease with scaling and planing. However, it was then up to Karen to maintain her teeth and gums on a daily basis. I told Karen that there are some risk factors that increase the likelihood that someone will develop gum disease.
- Tobacco use
- Old fillings or ill-fitting bridges
- Grinding your teeth
- Crooked teeth
Karen and I then discussed what steps she could take to prevent gum disease in the future. The most important thing to do in order to avoid gum disease is to keep your mouth as free from plaque and tartar as possible. Many of the steps that you can take to prevent gum disease are basic tenets of oral hygiene.
Brush Your Teeth Often
Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste removes plaque from your mouth before it bonds to your teeth and turns into tartar. If you are unable to brush after every meal, make sure to at least rinse your mouth with water to free any debris from your gum line and reduce the risk of gum infection.
Flossing cleans those small spaces that your toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing is the most effective way for you to remove plaque from between your teeth.
Use Mouth Rinse
Rinsing your mouth with antimicrobial mouth rinse helps to kill bacteria and prevent plaque and tartar buildup. Mouth rinse also cleans those hard to reach places that brushing can miss.
See Your Dentist Regularly
Regular professional dental cleanings are the best way to avoid gum disease. A dental cleaning is the only way to rid your teeth of existing tartar. Your dentist will also be able to monitor changes in the health of your teeth and gums, making it more likely that potential problems will be noticed and treated before they cause permanent damage.
Karen has been able to maintain her healthy smile by not smoking, brushing and flossing as recommended, and regularly coming into the office for professional cleanings. Her mouth feels and looks great!
If you think you may have signs of gum disease, or you just want to explore your options for preventing gum disease, click here to schedule a consultation. A healthy smile is closer than you think!
Look for next week’s newsletter, in which we’ll discuss the connection between diabetes and gum disease.
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