Many people underestimate the importance of their gums in their oral health. The truth is, however, that your pearly whites wouldn’t stand a chance without healthy, pink gums to support them. The American Academy of Periodontology reports: “half of American adults suffer from gum disease,” while the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research notes: “Periodontal disease is the most common cause of tooth loss among adults.” At our Houston dental practice, Dr. Craig Armstrong, Dr. Ed Sauer, and our team help patients preserve and improve every facet of their smiles. In many cases, the first step to better periodontal care is simply education. In the following blog, we provide a guide to your gums so you can better clean and protect them.
Your gingiva is the soft tissue that covers the roots of your teeth, your mandible (lower jaw), maxilla (upper jaw), and the spaces between your teeth. Healthy gums fit snugly over the teeth and surrounding structures to cover them and hold them in place. The “free” gingiva is the portion of tissue that encircles the tooth. This part of the gums is slightly looser and can be moved within a particular range. The space between the tooth and the gums is called the “sulcus.”
The same bacteria that erode your enamel can also accumulate beneath your gum line and between your teeth. Plaque, tartar (the hardened form of plaque), and debris can collect in your free gingiva and cause irritation, inflammation, and infection. We generally break periodontal disease into two stages:
When you come in for your dental examinations and cleanings, Dr. Armstrong, Dr. Sauer, and our hygienists will evaluate your gums for signs of disease. If you suffer from gingivitis, you may be able to correct this condition simply by improving your oral hygiene—brushing for at least two minutes at least twice a day, flossing at least once per day, and using antibacterial mouthwash. However, if you have a more severe infection, we may recommend scaling and root planing. This is a deep cleaning procedure performed under local anesthesia over several appointments to remove plaque and tartar from beneath your gums. Particularly serious cases of periodontitis may require surgery to repair. If necessary, our team will refer you to a periodontist, a gum specialist.
To avoid becoming one of the millions of Americans with gum disease, you can take a few simple, proactive measures. You can keep your gums healthy by:
For more information on your gums and tips for keeping periodontal disease at bay, contact our dental practice today to schedule an appointment. We look forward to seeing you!