Your gums do more than simply hold your teeth in place — they’re pulling double duty! Gums are a barrier where your mouth meets the outside world. Because of this, gums pick up a lot of bacteria. That’s not a problem by itself, but when the bacteria grows and spreads in the mouth, it can lead to a condition called periodontitis or periodontal disease. Because periodontitis can lead to tooth loss and health problems throughout your body, it’s very important to take good care of your gums.
How Gum (Periodontal) Disease Begins
The gums are a soft type of skin that covers the teeth and keeps them sealed and protected from the outside world. Your mouth makes up an ecosystem that has a lot of different kinds of bacteria competing for space. Regular brushing and flossing is needed to keep some of those bacteria in check and to prevent them from congregating and building plaque. If plaque is allowed to build up on the surface of the teeth, it can start to release toxins that irritate the gums. This reddening and irritation is a condition known as gingivitis.
Gingivitis causes the body’s immune system to kick into high gear. The main symptoms are swelling and reddening of the gum tissue. White cells in your bloodstream show up to attack and eradicate the bacteria causing the irritation. However, white blood cells don’t discriminate – they destroy the bad bacteria, but these cells can also destroy healthy gum tissue. Once that process starts, the more serious stages of periodontitis begin to take place.
How Gum Disease Can Impact Your Health
Many adults can have gingivitis and not even know it. This is why it’s so important to brush and floss regularly. As the gum damage progresses, the effects can spread to the teeth and jaw. Once gingivitis progresses to periodontal disease, the bony structures of the teeth and jawbone come under attack. Many additional chronic health conditions have been associated with gum disease with the likely connection being inflammation in the body. Doctors have determined that people with gum disease are at higher risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease, chronic respiratory conditions, diabetes and pregnancy complications. There are even links between periodontal disease and dementia.
One positive thing about the connection that doctors have found is that treating these conditions works both ways. If a person’s gum disease is effectively treated, it can reduce the severity of diabetes, and vice versa.
How to Maintain Healthy Gums
Following this regimen is the best way to prevent gum disease:
- Regular Brushing and Flossing: Plaque buildup provides a nice home for bacteria to nest and cause gum disease. Brushing your teeth a couple of times per day and flossing before bedtime gets most of that trapped food out of your mouth. Ask Dr. Medina to recommend the best type of toothbrush for your teeth and gums.
- Stop Smoking: If you smoke, stop! Doctors have found a direct correlation between smoking and a highly increased risk of gum disease. Smoking half a pack of cigarettes per day makes you three times as likely to develop gum disease as a non-smoker. The risk of gum disease is even greater if you smoke more than that.
- Eat Healthy Foods: A diet with lots of vegetables, fruits, vegetable oils, nuts and fatty fish helps your body fight inflammation (which leads to gum disease). The omega-3 fatty acids in certain types of fish have been shown to reduce the risk of gum disease.
- Have Regular Dental Checkups: Keeping regularly-scheduled dental appointments for cleaning and a check up can help prevent the buildup of plaque. Your dentist will also be able to spot signs of gum disease early, when it is much easier and less costly to treat.
Schedule Your Next Las Vegas Dentist Appointment with Dr. Medina
Advanced gum disease is treatable. Dr. Jesus Medina specializes in laser dentistry for gum disease. This is a less invasive, less painful method of treating gum disease. Whether you need a regular checkup or teeth cleaning, or if you think you might have gum disease, contact Dr Medina’s office in Las Vegas to schedule your next dentist appointment.
Dr. Medina is a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). Advanced General Dentistry, with a practice in Las Vegas Nevada since 1988. He offers general and family dentistry, with a specialization in cosmetic and restorative dental services.