Dental hygiene is about more than just teeth, it means taking care of the whole mouth, teeth, and gums. Gum diseases like gingivitis can greatly reduce overall mouth health with unsightly and painful results. Fortunately, for most patients, the effects of gum disease can be reduced and eliminated with treatment and behavioral changes. Understanding the causes and treatment options for gum disease can help avoid the problem.
Everyone’s mouth is full of bacteria, saliva, food particles, mucus, and other microscopic elements that need to be cleaned out to ensure proper dental hygiene. The combination of all these things can form plaque, a sticky film that coats teeth. When plaque is allowed to stay on teeth longer than a few days, it hardens into tartar. Tartar hardens with minerals found in saliva and creates a protective shield for bacteria to thrive beneath. Once the tartar has formed, brushing and flossing alone will not get rid of it. A visit to the dentist will be required.
If bacteria is allowed to remain on the gums long enough, it will lead to gingivitis. Gingivitis is caused by bacterial inflammation that makes gums red and swollen. Gums afflicted with gingivitis bleed easily, making it difficult to brush or floss. While gingivitis is problematic, it can usually be reversed with a renewed focus on dental hygiene. Daily brushing, flossing, and regular trips to the dentist should eliminate gingivitis.
On the other hand, if gingivitis goes untreated, it can mature into periodontitis, a much more serious form of gum disease. Periodontitis means “inflammation around the tooth” and is caused when the gums begin to pull away from the teeth. The pockets between gum and tooth become infected and the bacterial toxins can break down teeth and gums, causing them to fall out. Periodontitis often requires oral surgery to repair.
Attention to dental hygiene can prevent gum disease. That’s one of the many reasons why it’s important to teach children early about proper oral healthcare.