Gum Health 101

If you believe that the overall health of your mouth is reflected solely by the condition of your teeth, think again. The gums also play a significant role in determining your oral health and can greatly impact the state of your general health as well. It may be surprising to learn that gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that half of American adults over age 30 are afflicted with periodontitis, an advanced form of periodontal disease (also known as gum disease).

The link between periodontal disease and other serious health issues continues to be researched. However, it is known that some women and men who battle gum disease may also be at an increased risk for developing such conditions as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, pregnancy complications, and dementia. Simple steps can be taken to protect your gums and prevent costly issues later in life. Dr. Marianna Farber is the founder of Contemporary & Esthetic Dentistry in New York City. She stresses the importance of proper gum care and encourages patients to integrate the following steps and treatments into their oral hygiene routine.

How does gum disease develop?

Without proper treatment, gum disease can be detrimental. It begins when plaque, a bacteria-laden sticky substance that develops on the teeth after eating and drinking, is not promptly or adequately brushed away. When left to accumulate, it hardens and becomes tartar, which can only be removed by a dental professional. Once plaque and tartar have irritated the gums, inflammation and infection can result. Red, swollen, bleeding gums and bad breath are among the tell-tale symptoms of gum disease. If left untreated, the gums may recede and cause gap-like pockets to form between the teeth through which bacteria can enter. This has the potential to cause serious damage to the supporting tissues and bones and eventually may result in tooth loss.

Brushing and flossing

It should go without saying that proper brushing and flossing are key to maintaining the health of your teeth and gums. Both work together to help remove plaque on the teeth as well as food particles that get trapped between them. In general, New York City patients are advised to brush their at least teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, preferably in a circular motion with a soft or electric toothbrush for two full minutes. Brushing too aggressively or with a hard toothbrush can inflict damage on the gums and cause them to recede, increasing the odds that periodontal disease will develop.

According to the American Dental Association, flossing at least once per day is ideal. However, most people floss incorrectly by stopping at the point where the gums appear rather than maneuvering the dental floss down the entire length of the tooth. To protect the health of your gums, plaque must be removed from all areas of the teeth including their lowermost portions. Follow up daily brushing and flossing by gargling and rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash, which may further reduce plaque, slow the development of tartar, and possibly alleviate some symptoms of gingivitis.

Quit smoking

The sooner smokers can kick their habit, the better since it has been tied to the onset of gum disease. Studies have shown that men and women who smoke half a pack of cigarettes daily are three times more likely to have periodontitis than nonsmokers. Also, because smoking weakens the immune system, fighting off periodontal disease can be more difficult, especially once the gums have been damaged.

Eat a healthy diet

It’s no secret that foods and beverages loaded with sugar, as well as those that are highly acidic, are bad for your teeth and gums. But, did you know that some foods actually work to protect your oral health? For example, the antimicrobial properties found in onions are known to slay certain strains of bacteria that are responsible for cavities and gum disease. Omega 3 fatty acids, such as those found in seafood, seeds, and nuts, quell inflammation and decrease the risk of periodontal disease.

Get regular dental checkups

The only way to remove tartar, which builds on the teeth and irritates the gums, is with a professional dental cleaning. Plaque also can be removed during these appointments, which provides Dr. Farber an opportunity to examine your gums as well as address any early signs of periodontal disease that may be discovered before it becomes a serious oral health condition.

Scaling and root planing

When caught early, the first stage of gum disease, called gingivitis, can be treated and reversed. Oftentimes, however, a routine dental cleaning is not enough to correct this condition. At Contemporary & Esthetic Dentistry in New York City, Dr. Farber performs simple scaling and root planing treatments on patients battling gingivitis. During this procedure, a local anesthetic is applied to areas designated for treatment. A scaling tool is employed to remove plaque and tartar from below the gumline. The outside of the tooth’s enamel is smoothed (also known as planing), which works to reduce areas where plaque and tartar can build in the future. Depending on your oral health, to completely restore your gums, patients may need to undergo several scaling and root planing procedures.

Chao Pinhole treatment

In New York City patients whose gums have receded, it means that gaps have formed between the teeth and gum line. They may be candidates for the Chao Pinhole surgery technique. This minimally invasive gum-contouring procedure works to eliminate these spaces or pockets, which can act as a portal and allow bacteria to invade surrounding tissue and bones. It also effectively improves the appearance of your smile. After the teeth undergo a professional cleaning, Dr. Farber uses a needle to create a small hole in the gumline. The gum tissue is loosened before being gently placed further down on the teeth. An alternative to traditional gum grafting procedures, the long-lasting results of the Chao Pinhole surgery technique may prevent patients from experiencing future tooth loss.

When it comes to protecting your oral health, do not neglect your gums. Besides the potential for experiencing tooth loss, the implications of periodontal disease can be far-reaching and may result in the development of serious medical conditions. Don’t wait until you have the symptoms of gum disease to schedule an appointment with Dr. Marianna Farber at Contemporary & Esthetic Dentistry in New York City. Take charge of your dental health today!

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.