The gums are one of the most important part of your mouth. They hold your teeth in place, and supply blood to both your teeth and your jaw bone.

Unfortunately, this part of the mouth is also the most susceptible to disease and decay. The CDC estimates half of all Americans have some form of periodontal disease. In its mildest stages, periodontal disease may only present itself as an inflammation of the gums.

At its most severe, periodontal disease can cause your gums to recede. This, in turn, threatens your teeth and your jawbone.

What are the symptoms of gum disease?

Healthy gums are pink and tough. Bright red gums, puffy gums, or bleeding gums are all signs gingival disease has taken hold. Gum disease can also cause bad breath which is very tough to get rid of. You may also experience a strange, unpleasant taste you can’t get rid of.

Gum disease and tartar go hand-in-hand. If you have a tartar problem, chances are you will struggle to keep your gums healthy as well. Plaque gets under the gum line and hardens, forming pockets. These pockets push the gums away from the teeth, cause inflammation and create more opportunities to infect the gum.

At its most severe, gum disease can cause teeth to become loose and even misaligned. If left untreated, gum disease can cause tooth loss.

What causes gum disease?

Smoking and diabetes are the two major risk factors for periodontal disease (gum inflammation/infection with bone loss.)  Even if your oral hygiene is good in other respects, smoking or diabetes can put you at increased risk of gum disease.

Gum disease can be caused by poor oral hygiene. Anything that allows plaque to build up and harden on teeth can, in turn, cause gum disease.

Of course, gum disease also presents a paradox. You can also cause gum disease by brushing too much. Over brushing can wear the gums away. It can also erode tooth enamel. Both make it easier for disease to attack.

Finally, gum disease can have a genetic component, too. Periodontitis is an inflammatory disease, and some people are just more susceptible to this form of disease than others. This trait tends to run in families, though researchers note a tendency towards gum disease isn’t carried on a single gene. Rather, multiple genes carry multiple risk factors. Epigenetics, the process of “switching” genes on or off, also play a role. 

How can you prevent gum disease?

You can’t help your genetics, but you can take steps to keep your mouth as healthy as possible.

  1. Brush twice a day.
  2. Floss every time you brush.
  3. Rinse with a good, antimicrobial mouthwash.
  4. Eat a healthy diet.
  5. Drink plenty of water.

Getting regular check-ups here at our office can also help. If you come in at least once a year we can help you control plaque and tartar before they can build up beneath the gum line.

How do you treat gum disease?

Gums will not grow back on their own. All levels of gum disease require a dentist’s attention. We have several techniques we can use to allow existing gums to heal and to stop the spread of decay. These are:

  • Scaling and root planing (AKA prophylaxis) – A deep clean that gets to tartar and plaque below the gum line, cleaning out pockets and smoothing the tooth root so gums may reattach.
  • Pocket reduction surgery – Used for very deep pockets. We fold back the gum tissue, so we may clean the entire tooth and smooth any damaged bone. Then we secure the gum tissue back into place. Given healthy teeth and bones to work with, the gum should reattach.
  • Crown lengthening – Used either as a cosmetic procedure for a smile with a little too much gum in it, or as a medical procedure when the gum is preventing us from getting to a decayed or broken tooth. This is the process of reshaping the gums to expose more of the tooth, creating a more natural-looking smile.
  • Gingival grafts – Allows us to create new gum tissue for you by removing tissue from the roof of your mouth and stitching it to the areas of the gums requiring treatment.
  • Guided bone and tissue regeneration – We can insert biocompatible membranes or bone tissue from either a human donor or your own body into your gum or bone structure, encouraging them to regrow.

When you make your appointment, we will give you a comprehensive exam. We’ll evaluate the condition of your gums and your bone structure in addition to looking out for your teeth. We’ll measure any pockets and create a treatment plan from there.

Don’t take chances with gum disease. Call Capital Dental Design in Richmond to make an appointment today.