The bacteria-rich environment in a human's mouth causes a sticky substance called plaque to build up on teeth. Brushing and flossing properly can keep this damaging substance at bay, but a toothbrush doesn't remove everything. As a result, the residual plaque hardens into tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist during a professional cleaning. But what can happen if you don't get regular cleanings or underlying factors come into play?
Plaque and tartar build-up can lead to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums. Swollen gums become red and prone to bleeding. This mild form of gum disease can be reversed with proper brushing and regular cleanings to reduce tartar deposits.
When gingivitis is left untreated, it can advance to periodontitis. This is an inflammation of the pocket that surrounds each tooth, allowing infection to enter the body. The body's immune system, coupled with the bacterial activity, inflames the tissues below the gum line. In turn, the gums pull away from the teeth, weakening the tooth's support structure. This can lead to tooth loss if not properly treated.
Who Is At Risk For Gum Disease?
In addition to improper oral hygiene, other factors can increase your risk:
- Immune System Disorders
- Estrogen-Related Hormonal Changes
How Can Gum Disease Be Treated?
Regular dental cleanings are a good start, but may not always be enough to reverse gum disease. Sometimes more aggressive measures are required.
- Root Planing And Scaling
Done under a local anesthetic, this deep cleaning cleans the tartar below the gum line-scaling. Root planing involves smoothing out rough spots on the tooth root. Both procedures remove the bacteria, allowing a clean surface for the gums to reattach to the teeth. Advances in laser technology allow for a less invasive procedure in some patients. Antibiotics and antimicrobials are usually used in conjunction with this treatment.
- Flap Surgery
Surgical treatment may be necessary for more advanced gum disease. Flap surgery requires pulling back the gums, performing a deep clean, and then stitching the gums back in place so that the teeth are tightly bound to the gums once again.
- Bone Grafts
Grafting involves the surgical placement of synthetic or natural bone to encourage new bone growth. The success of these grafts depend on the body's cooperation and the control of underlying conditions, such as diabetes or smoking.
A healthy smile requires diligent brushing and flossing as well as regular cleanings. But if medical conditions or lifestyle choices wreak havoc on your gums, gum disease treatments can help reverse the damage of these dental woes.