4 Things Every Dental Patient Should Know About Gum Disease
You may not give your gums a second thought when you contemplate your teeth. After all, your pearly whites are the important parts of your mouth that you brush and floss. Gums are just the base on which those teeth sit. Or so it seems.
In fact, without healthy gums, you can kiss those gleaming teeth goodbye. That’s because your gums do far more than provide a convenient pink mold for your teeth. Gums are key to your oral health and more. Below are four things you should know about your gums and gum disease.
Gum Disease Is Caused by Bacteria and Plaque
There are lots of nooks and crannies in between your teeth where food particles get stuck and sugar-laden drinks coat the surfaces of gums and teeth. If these food particles and sugar coatings aren’t brushed, picked or flossed away, they begin to decay while on your teeth and gum surfaces.
As these substances decay, they attract bacteria that love to eat old food particles and sugar coatings. Some of these bacteria create a hard coating on the teeth called plaque. Plaque sticks so hard and close to teeth, it must be scraped off by a dentist once it starts building up on the teeth and in the spaces between the teeth.
Both bacteria and plaque are foreign objects to your gums. So what do your loyal gums do? They try to fight the plaque by becoming inflamed and sending white blood cells to the area. When the gums swell, they also bleed easily. In advanced gum disease, pockets of pus and plaque begin forming beneath the gum line as the bacteria continues to wreak havoc on the mouth.
There Are Four Stages of Periodontal (Gum) Disease
Dental experts describe the four stages of gum health. In the first stage—the healthy phase—gums are firm, pink and extend up to fill the spaces between the teeth. In stage two, plaque and bacteria have formed at the top of the gum line. In between the teeth and above the gum line, plaque begins pushing the gum tissue away from the undersides of the chewing surfaces.
In the third stage of periodontal disease, periodontal pockets begin forming between the teeth from the pressure and inflammation caused by increasing layers of plaque and bacteria. The pockets may extend well under the gum line where they cannot be seen without dental examination. The top of the gum surface becomes degraded as the pockets deepen.
In the final phase of periodontitis, the gum is severely degraded between the teeth. The tooth surface is exposed between the teeth and coated in plaque. The teeth are at risk of becoming loose and falling out of the mouth.
Gingivitis Is Not Merely Early Periodontitis
Some scientists and researchers speculate that the second, third, and fourth stages of periodontal disease are merely different degrees of the same problem. It’s been assumed that the same bacterial culprits were to blame for all of it. New research is proving otherwise.
Recently, a team of scientists and researchers tested actual RNA sequencing of the bacteria growing in the mouths of 1,000 women in the country of Malawi. Since periodontal disease is common in Malawi, the researchers were able to link specific bacteria to the stages of gum disease in the large test sample.
Researchers learned several things. First, they learned that only a few types of bacteria cause full-blown periodontitis. So the disease isn’t merely a more advanced infestation of the bacteria that cause second-stage gingivitis.
Researchers were able to distinguish which bacteria caused the worst deepening of periodontal pockets as well.
With this knowledge, it may be easier for your dentist to diagnose advanced periodontal disease in the future. The current examination for periodontitis involves specialty tools and skills. Soon, a simple bacterial culture may be used to diagnose specific stages of gum disease.
Gum Disease Is Linked to Heart Disease and Other Ailments
Another startling discovery that has recently been made public is the link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease. It may seem like a stretch to think that your gums have anything to do with your arteries, but they do.
In fact, researchers have found oral bacteria in the plaque found in the walls of the heart and in major arteries. How does the mouth bacteria end up in the heart and blood vessels? Through the bloodstream after you swallow your food.
When plaque builds up in the mouth, it harms your gums and teeth. When plaque builds up in arteries, it constricts the vessels or breaks off and causes blockages. Gum disease is also being studied for its relationship to other diseases, including diabetes, stroke and premature birth.
Protect yourself from the ugly side of gum disease by brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day. When you get rid of the food particles and sugary coatings on teeth, that nasty disease-causing plaque and bacteria have a harder time taking hold and causing problems.
Contact Northwest Dental Services & Dental Implant Center today to learn more about your teeth and gum health. They can show you tips and tricks to keep your mouth clean, shiny and pain-free.