When talking about oral health, most people focus on the teeth, but the gums are just as important. The gums help support the teeth and protect the tooth roots from decay and other damage, helping us to enjoy healthy, beautiful smiles. General dentistry treatments play an important role in protecting gum health by preventing gum disease and reducing the risk of other oral issues. In addition to general dentistry treatments, good gum health requires daily oral hygiene habits. Find out how to protect your gums as we discuss the causes of poor gum health in this overview from Brookfield, WI dentist Thomas Tang.
Gum Health Issues
Poor gum health can manifest in a number of ways, the two most severe of which are gum disease and gum recession. Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is essentially an infection of the gums that is caused by bacteria found in plaque and tartar buildup.
The early stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis, is marked by bleeding gums, especially when flossing or brushing, and gum inflammation. As gingivitis becomes more severe, it progresses to periodontitis. Periodontitis causes pockets to form between the gums and teeth, allowing plaque and bacteria to reach the roots of the teeth. If left untreated, periodontitis can lead to tooth decay or even tooth loss.
Gum recession is a loss of gum tissue along the gum line and may be caused by gum disease or aggressively brushing the teeth. Gum recession is dangerous to oral health as it exposes the structures of the teeth normally protected by the gums to bacteria, plaque, and food debris. This increases the risk of tooth decay below the gum line and may lead to tooth loss.
Common Causes of Poor Gum Health
Poor gum health has many possible causes. Although poor oral hygiene is one of the biggest factors, other things, including genetics, can play a role in poor gum health. Some of the common causes of poor gum health include:
- Poor oral hygiene: Skipping brushing and flossing allows bacteria, plaque, and food debris to collect on the teeth and along the gum line, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
- Poor diet: Poor diets high in carbohydrates and sugars increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease by allowing bacteria to stick to the teeth and thrive in the mouth.
- Brushing aggressively: Using too much pressure or a hard-bristled toothbrush, in other words brushing aggressively, can cause the gums to recede and wear away dental enamel.
- Diabetes: Diabetes can make it more difficult for the body to heal itself and fight infection, which may be why those with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease.
- Genetics: Some people are genetically predisposed to developing gum disease, gum recession, or other gum health issues. For those with a family history of gum disease or gum recession, it is particularly important to take steps to care for the gums.
- Tobacco use: Smoking increases plaque buildup within the mouth, and inhibits the body's ability to heal, increasing the risk of gum health issues.
How to Protect Gum Health
Practicing proper oral hygiene is the best way to protect gum health. Brush at least twice a day for a full two minutes and floss at least once a day, being sure to floss along each side of each tooth and as far along the gum line as possible. Regular dental exams and cleanings are also important to maintaining healthy gums as they help catch problems early and prevent plaque and tartar buildup.
Other ways to reduce the risk of poor gum health includes:
- Using a soft-bristled brush to reduce the damage of brushing aggressively
- Keeping diabetes under control through diet and medical attention
- Eating a healthy diet low in carbs and sugars
- Giving up smoking and tobacco use
Find out Which Treatments Are Right for You
For more information about improving gum health, or to find out which treatments are right for you, we invite you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Tang.