It can be painless and silent. You may not notice anything out of the ordinary, but it still could be there, lurking unseen with a siege already in motion.
Gum disease. As soon as we are old enough to pay attention we are told to take good care of our teeth but healthy teeth are nowhere without healthy gums. Absence of diligent and proper oral health care can invite gum recession (periodontal disease) to take hold and once it appears it can cause serious damage.
What is gum recession?
Gum recession (commonly referred to as gum disease) is an acute inflammation affecting tissues surrounding and supporting your teeth. It is typically painless on its own but left unchecked will lead to major tissue damage, tooth loss, or even worse—bone deterioration and loss.
This common disease can appear in the relatively mild form of gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums and subsequent plaque and tartar buildup caused by bacterial infection, to far more advanced and chronic forms. Chronic periodontitis is the most advanced, typically progresses slowly and determinedly, and is usually more common in adulthood.
Gum recession is a serious oral health issue
Unhealthy, swollen red, or bleeding gums obviously do not look good but far more concerning issues are at play. The most serious of these is exposed tooth roots. The roots are not protected with enamel and are designed to reside below the gumline. The cementum on the roots easily decays and leads to cavities.
Receding gums also remove your teeth’s support and cause them to loosen and even fall out. Exposed sections of teeth can also be very sensitive to hot, cold, or sweets.
What causes gum disease?
Every single day, food we eat gets trapped in the tiny space where our teeth and gums attach. This location is below the gum line and if we don’t regularly brush and floss to get food out of there, bacteria forms and turns into plaque on our teeth.
Advanced stages of plaque become tartar and if tartar evolves below the gum line, the gums turn red, swell, and often bleed. The condition can typically be reversed with brushing and flossing but if not treated properly, can move to more serious periodontitis where the gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets. This is bad, because these pockets can easily become infected and as your body’s immune system wages battle against the bacteria, the bacteria might spread its damage to bones and soft tissue which can lead to lost teeth.
How does this all happen? Gum disease results from an array of factors and understanding them is critical to controlling gum disease, and preventing it in the first place. While gum disease can affect some people no matter what they do, it can be significantly slowed or stopped altogether by managing certain risk factors:
- Aggressive brushing is hard on your teeth and gums but many people believe harder brushing is better. The truth is you don’t need to apply a lot of pressure when brushing and it is much better to go easy. Use a soft-bristled brush and let the brush do the work.
- Aggressive flossing is another contributor to gum disease. It is important to bring floss to and a bit below the gum line, but don’t press down so hard it hurts. This can damage your gums and lead to further issues.
- Grinding your teeth puts a tremendous amount of pressure on your gums and causes them to eventually pull away from your teeth and that is the first step toward gum disease.
- Genetics is not something you can change but if gum disease is part of your family tree, you are much likelier to have it too.
- Misaligned teeth direct uneven pressure that causes gums to tighten and makes them susceptible to pulling away from your teeth.
Early detection is the key to controlling and treating periodontal disease. Gum disease warning signs are plentiful and paying heed to those indicators is a sound strategy, combined of course with diligent oral hygiene (brush and floss twice a day) and regular dental checkups. Catching gum disease early will make your oral world a much happier place.
For more information on gum recession, contact Glendale Periodontics at (818) 423-4172 or glendaleperiodontics.com.