Your mouth goes through a lot every single day — it breaks down food, creates saliva to wash away bacteria and gives you a voice to speak. While many people attend the dentist annually, a third of adults have admitted to never having sat in the hygienist chair. With gum disease being the most common reason for tooth loss in adults, making sure you check in with the hygienist regularly ensures your gums remain an excellent foundation for your teeth. Let’s look at the ins and outs of gum disease and learn about why it’s so important to look after this essential part of your mouth’s anatomy.
Gum disease: What are the Symptoms to Look Out For?
The following symptoms are common signs you could be suffering from gum disease:
- Swollen/inflamed gums
- Bright red or purple gums
- Tender gums
- Signs of blood after brushing
- Bad breath
- Areas of pus between your teeth
- Pain when chewing
- Receding gums that expose tooth dentin
- A change in the way your teeth bite together
What are the Risk Factors?
Certain risk factors increase your chances of developing gum disease, including:
- Smoking and chewing tobacco
- Failing to brush and floss sufficiently (this should be a minimum of twice a day for two minutes and once a day before bed)
- Pregnancy and hormone changes
- Poor dietary habits/lack of certain vitamins, particularly vitamin C
- Medications that cause a dry mouth/interrupt the flow of saliva
The Relationship Between Poor Gum Health and Your General Health
In recent years, there has been evidence to suggest a link between poor oral health and broader health. It’s thought that the bacteria that infect the gums and cause advanced gum disease (periodontitis) can enter the bloodstream and cause blood vessel inflammation. This can result in heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Those with Type 2 diabetes are also three times more likely to develop dental and oral hygiene problems. As those with Type 2 diabetes have high blood sugar levels, this can lead to more sugar in saliva, creating the ideal breeding ground for bacteria, which produces an acid that attacks your tooth enamel, the protective coating on your teeth.
Unfortunately, once tooth enamel is worn down, it cannot repair itself, leaving your teeth exposed to cavities, decay and gum disease. Routine hygienist appointments will ensure plaque and tartar are removed from your gum line and that your teeth are thoroughly cleaned, helping to preserve your tooth enamel and long-term oral health and hygiene.
Gum Disease and Plaque: What You Need to Know
All gum disease is caused by the build-up of plaque, the sticky white biofilm that forms on teeth every time you eat or drink. When you consume food and drink, the bacteria in plaque produce acids, which wear down (and eventually destroy) your tooth enamel. Plaque can also form under your tooth roots and deteriorate the bones supporting your teeth. Brushing and flossing every day ensures plaque doesn’t linger on your teeth to cause gum disease, as does making good dietary and lifestyle choices.
High sugar food and drink, smoking and chewing tobacco will all cause plaque to form more quickly, which is why routine hygienist appointments are so important. Once plaque forms (you’ll notice it as a white substance that coats the bottom of your gum line), it can’t be removed through brushing alone, and a scale and polish are the only means of achieving this. Regularly removing plaque ensures you don’t reach an irreversible stage of gum disease.
What are the Different Stages of Periodontal Disease?
This brings us to outlining what the different stages of gum disease are.
- Stage 1 Gingivitis: most adults will experience gingivitis at some stage. This is the only stage of gum disease that’s reversible, and the most common first symptom is inflammation and bleeding gums, though there are no symptoms in many cases. It’s for this reason that routine hygienist appointments are so crucial, helping to identify problems early and prevent gingivitis from developing into a more advanced stage of gum disease.
- Stage 2 Slight Periodontal Disease: this is when gum disease begins to become irreversible but manageable. At this stage, gum disease has spread to the bone that supports your teeth, and the bacteria in your mouth become more harmful. Here at Corner House Dental, we can carry out regular scaling and root planning to clean your periodontal pockets and reach bacteria that has become deeply rooted in your gums.
- Stage 3 Moderate Periodontal Disease: by this stage, bacteria is even more capable of attacking your bones and will start to enter your bloodstream. Scaling and root planning can be performed to make sure bacteria is removed.
- Stage 4 Advanced Periodontal Disease: the final stage of periodontal disease will cause highly unpleasant symptoms such as gums that emit pus, severe halitosis (bad breath), make it difficult to chew and cause tooth loss. We would recommend replacing any missing teeth as soon as possible to help prevent your jawbone from shrinking away, a process called resorption. Here at our Norwich dental practice, we offer several options for replacing missing teeth.
Routine Hygienist Appointments: What to Expect
Every patient’s routine hygienist appointments will differ. Whilst one patient may require some educational advice on how to improve their brushing (as well as a regular scale and polish), another patient could need a long-term treatment plan that involves periodontal therapy every three months.
Whatever your needs, here at our Norwich dental practice, we’re here to carry out a thorough assessment each time you visit us and help you adopt a preventative approach to maintaining good gum health. Remember that your hygienist appointments are also a chance for you to raise any concerns you might have and seek support in improving your at-home habits. We’re here to listen and help.
If you would like to book yourself in for a routine hygienist appointment at our Norwich Dental Practice, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team, who can book you in at your convenience.