We want to begin this blog with two important statistics: Nearly 178 million people in the United States are missing at least one tooth and nearly half of people 30 and older have gum disease. The link between these two statistics is a direct one as gum disease and tooth decay are the two primary drivers of tooth loss.
Tooth preservation is one of our primary objectives here at Peninsula Dental Excellence, which is why Drs. Colin Au and Jeff Yoshihara, along with our highly skilled dental team, want to take a closer look at the importance of taking good care of your gums.
The role of your gums
Your gums — the soft tissue that surrounds your teeth — provide two very important functions: They form a tight seal that helps keep your teeth in position and this same seal is designed to prevent harmful bacteria from gaining access to your teeth.
Gum disease 101
Gum disease is caused when bacteria make their way under your gums, where they create an infection that not only threatens the soft tissue, but the hard tissues that form your teeth.
There are three stages of gum disease, including:
- Gingivitis — the early stage of gum disease in which your gums are slightly swollen and red
- Periodontitis — plaque forms and your gums start to detach from your teeth
- Advanced periodontitis — the infection causes bone loss and your teeth become loose
As you can see, gum disease is progressive, so the earlier we can identify and address the problem, the better your outcome.
Preventing gum disease
One of your best lines of defense when it comes to preventing periodontitis is to keep up with your preventive dental care, including your twice-annual professional teeth cleanings with us. During this visit, we clear away any bacteria, plaque, or tartar that may be forming around your gums to prevent these from gaining access to underneath your gum line.
While these cleanings are important, the care you provide your gums at home in between visits is also paramount. Our recommended at-home routine includes:
- Flossing your teeth at least once a day
- Brushing your teeth twice a day
- Rinsing your mouth after you eat
- Use a therapeutic mouthwash after you brush
When it comes to brushing your gums, we recommend that you do so very gently after you brush your teeth. Using a soft bristle, gently massage your gums with the brush and don’t forget to include your tongue, which can also harbor bacteria.
If, despite your best efforts, you develop gum disease, we offer comprehensive periodontal care. In early periodontitis, we can turn to a deeper cleaning, which we call scaling and root planing. During this procedure, we scrape plaque, tartar, and bacteria from around your gums and then we eliminate any infectious pockets that may have formed above your gum line. Once we’ve cleared the infection, we plane your teeth so that your gums can easily reattach themselves.
If your periodontitis has advanced beyond a deep cleaning, we can perform gum flap or gum graft surgery, but these are the last stops before tooth loss and we’d prefer that you don’t get there in the first place.
For more information on preventing or treating gum disease, please contact our office in Mountain View, California, to set up an appointment.