Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that surround the tooth. There are two terms you are likely to hear when discussing gum disease with Dr. Patty Martin or her hygienist, Tiffany. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums that can cause discomfort, but usually not irreversible tissue damage. However, if left untreated, it can become a precursor to periodontal disease, or periodontitis. When a person develops periodontitis, the gums pull away from the tooth, leaving an open space. Debris collects in these open “pockets, ” and they can become infected. Toxins from the bacteria in the pockets break down and destroy the bone and tissues that are surrounding them. This is a serious condition that requires gum disease treatment and can result in permanent periodontal tissue and bone loss if not treated aggressively.
What are warning signs of gum disease?
- Red or purple colored gums - Gums that are swollen, tender or shiny - Gums that easily bleed when brushing or flossing - Persistent bad breath - Receding gums, or gums pulling away from the tooth to make it appear longer than it used to - Mouth Sores - Loose Teeth - A change in how your teeth fit when you bite together
What are some factors that put you at higher risk for gum disease?
- Poor oral hygiene - Hormonal changes (such as during pregnancy) - Family history of periodontal disease - Some medications - Stress - Teeth Grinding - Tobacco use - Poor nutrition
Gum disease can usually be prevented by regular brushing and flossing, good nutrition and regularly scheduled cleaning visits and check-ups with the team here at Stone Creek Dental Care. If you are experiencing signs or symptoms of gum disease, talk to us sooner rather than later. Dr. Martin will discuss with you appropriate approaches to treatment that may be as simple changing your oral hygiene habits, or that could include a deep cleaning (called a scaling and root planning), or other options.
Following these simple guidelines recommended by the American Dental Association could greatly improve your oral health:
Brush for two minutes, twice a day: 98% of dental disease can be prevented by just following this common practice. Studies show that people who think they are brushing for two minutes are actually brushing for less than one!
Don’t brush too hard: Plaque is soft and sticky. Scrubbing might feel like it’s doing a better job, but it may actually be causing more damage than good. Lightly brushing with a soft bristled toothbrush is all you need. Any calculus (hard deposits) that still remain should be removed professionally by your hygienist.
Angle your brush at 45 degrees: When brushing manually, make tiny circles at the correct angle and you should be able to feel the bristles gently sweep under the gum line.
Change your toothbrush regularly: This is not just for cleanliness. Over time, the bristles of your toothbrush may become bent or splayed which will no longer clean properly. We recommend getting a new brush every 3 months.
Get in between your teeth: Brushing only gets 70% of the debris off of your teeth. Whether it’s using dental floss, a water flosser, or even just a toothpick, something is better than nothing. Most cavities start in those hard-to-reach areas and grow from there.
If you've not seen our dental team in Walla Walla in the past six months, call us today to get on the books at 509-525-5902!