Symptoms And Treatment Of Gum Disease
Even if you brush your teeth regularly, gum infections can still happen
We would like to start 2023 by wishing all of our Acton patients a happy new year! We hope that you all had a great time and feel refreshed.
Today, we continue our series of blogs by looking at a sometimes underestimated problem that can be relatively easily controlled with a little extra care.
Most of us probably feel that we take good care of our teeth by ensuring that we brush them well twice a day. Even these basics of oral health care can often be improved though and we will look at that in a future blog. What far fewer of us do though is to look after our gums. This is important and not just because infected gums can be uncomfortable; poor gum health can even lead to tooth loss if it is not treated in time.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is actually quite common and most of us will suffer from it from time to time, usually quite temporarily and even without us realising it. It is usually caused by poor oral health care which allows plaque, a sticky collection of bacteria, to build up on your teeth and around the gum line. Brushing will remove quite a lot of this, but unfortunately, some may remain and will eventually harden to form a crust which is known as tartar or calculus.
There are two stages of gum disease; the earlier stage of gingivitis which can be relatively mild and often reversible with appropriate care, and periodontitis. This latter stage of gum disease is more serious and it is not just your gums that are at risk, but the infection may reach the bone where the tooth is held. The bone can then start to deteriorate and leave you with a loose and wobbly tooth. This can sometimes be treated but it is not always successful and is also a much more invasive treatment than for gingivitis.
Warning signs of gum disease
You shouldn’t really wait for any symptoms to appear and a good oral health regime should help you to avoid it, but more of that a little later on. If you do have gum disease, whether gingivitis or periodontitis, there are some common signs that you might notice. You may only have one of these and even none at all (which is why you should have oral checks regularly). If you do notice any of these signs though, please contact one of the dentists at Acton Vale Dental Centre for an appointment as soon as possible.
Some of the more common gum disease symptoms are as follows:
- Sore or inflamed gums
- Gums that are red instead of their normal pink (this may coincide with the above)
- Pus between the teeth
- Gums that bleed when you brush your teeth
- Wobbly teeth
- Pain when chewing your food
- Receding gums
- Bad breath (halitosis)
If you have any of these symptoms, please don’t ignore them and make sure you see a dentist as soon as you can.
Preventing gum disease
As mentioned earlier, it really isn’t that hard to avoid gum disease becoming a problem. There are a few simple things that you should do to help to avoid it.
Brush your teeth well – This means twice a day using a toothbrush with healthy bristles. Worn bristles are much less effective at removing bacteria and you should renew your brush or brush head every three months or before if the bristles appear worn. You should also make sure to angle the bristles so that they point towards the gums. This allows the bristles to reach under the gum line to remove trapped food and bacteria there.
Use dental floss – Far too few people floss between their teeth. In fact it is thought that only around 20% of us do this. Gum disease (and tooth decay) often starts in this area where toothbrush bristles often struggle to reach. Use floss daily as a great way to overcome this problem. If you find it tricky to do, ask our hygienist to demonstrate the best way to do this.
Don’t smoke – Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors when it comes to gum disease (and many other health problems). Excess alcohol consumption can also have a similar effect.
Stay hydrated – A dry mouth is the perfect environment for potentially harmful oral bacteria to grow. This can especially happen if you have been drinking. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day and especially before you go to bed.
See the hygienist – You should do this every six months and possibly more frequently if you are at a higher risk of gum disease, such as being a smoker or a diabetic. We will discuss why in the next section.
Treating gum disease
If you have gum disease there are two main ways that we can help to restore their health. This will depend on how advanced the problem is.
Sometimes, this can be reversed simply through improved brushing and flossing etc. If you already have symptoms though, it is always best to seek professional help from our friendly dental hygienist. Not only will they discuss areas where you can improve your oral health at home, but will provide you with a treatment known as a ‘scale and polish’. There are three parts to this treatment, which is non-invasive incidentally and not painful. Initially, a hooked implement will be used to ‘scrape’ away most of the excess tartar that has accumulated. A sonic implement will then be used to shatter most of what remains. Finally a high speed toothbrush is used to clean the teeth and gum line of the remaining bacteria. Not only will this create a healthier set of teeth but cleaner and fresher looking ones too.
Root planing or ‘deep clean’
Where your gum disease has reached the stage of periodontitis, the problem is more difficult to treat and is not guaranteed to succeed. As the bacteria are around the root of your teeth and the surrounding bone, this requires an invasive procedure that you will very likely need to have a local anaesthetic for. It is also likely to cause some temporary soreness afterwards too. The good news though is that with good care, it is relatively straightforward to avoid this treatment.
With the new year now upon us, we hope that our Acton patients will use this new start to look at ways that they can improve their oral health. Good home care is an important part of this as is professional care provided by a dentist and dental hygienist. Make sure that you have appointments booked with us for both and if you don’t, please call the Acton Vale Dental Centre to arrange one on 020 8749 3267.