The health of your gums is vital to the health of your teeth, and knowing how to brush and floss effectively will keep your gums in good shape. Gum disease can produce swelling, soreness, or infection of the gums that support the teeth. There are two main forms of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontal disease.
What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis causes inflammation of the gums. This happens when the gums around the teeth become very red and swollen due to the build up of plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a soft, white, sticky substance that accumulates on the tooth surface. It contains bacteria, and if it’s not removed it irritates the gums. Often the swollen gums will bleed when being brushed. But gingivitis is reversible – you just need to get rid of the plaque! Once the plaque is removed the gums can recover and become healthy once again.
What is periodontal disease?
Long-standing gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease. There are a number of types of periodontal disease and they all affect the tissues supporting the teeth. As the disease gets worse the bone anchoring the teeth in the jaw is lost, making the teeth loose. If this is not treated, the teeth may eventually fall out. Periodontal disease is not reversible, but it is possible to stop the gum and bone from shrinking further, calling the process to a halt.
How to prevent gum disease?
Regular brushing, interdental cleaning, and flossing will control the amount of plaque and tartar that builds up on your teeth. Ask your dentist for advice about correct brushing and flossing techniques. A visit to the hygienist for a more thorough scale and clean will remove any remaining tartar.
If you have crowns or bridges it is important to floss in order to keep them clean, as plaque can build up under the ledge of the crown. Smokers are more likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers. Diabetes and hormonal changes can also make you more susceptible.