Gum health is often overlooked and not given equal weight in comparison to tooth health. However, maintaining gum and overall periodontal health is essential to maintaining a healthy oral environment. The gum tissue is responsible for connecting the teeth to the underlying bone and providing structure to the dental arch.
Connection to Overall Health
Research has demonstrated a strong link between gum health and overall health. Inflammation of the gum tissue or periodontitis can lead to a number of systemic health issues. Here are some noteworthy associations:
Numerous studies have found an association between gum disease and cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes. The common connection is inflammation, where the bacteria involved in gum disease can enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation in the blood vessels. This inflammation can later result in atherosclerosis – plaque buildup in the arteries, thereby increasing the risk of heart attacks or strokes.
Individuals with diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease. It often leads to a vicious cycle; as gum disease affects the blood glucose levels, blood sugar control becomes more difficult. Vice versa, poorly controlled blood sugar levels weaken the body’s immune system, making it more susceptible to infections like gum disease. It is essential to maintain good oral hygiene, particularly if you are diabetic, to prevent any detrimental effects on oral health.
The bacteria causing gum disease can be aspirated into the lungs, leading to respiratory infections such as pneumonia. This link is particularly evident in elderly individuals and those with compromised immune systems.
Pregnant women with periodontal disease may be at an increased risk of experiencing pregnancy complications such as preterm birth and low birth weight babies. Gum disease in pregnant women is thought to elevate levels of certain biological fluids, which can induce premature labor.
Prevention of Tooth Loss
Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults. The progression of gum disease starts from gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) to periodontitis (loss of attachment between the teeth and the gum/bone). In advanced stages, the tooth loses its supporting structures and becomes loose, eventually falling out or requiring extraction.
To prevent tooth loss, it is crucial to maintain healthy gums. Good oral hygiene is fundamental to gum health. It includes regular tooth brushing, flossing, and utilizing a mouth rinse to minimize plaque buildup and bacterial load. Moreover, scheduled dental visits for professional cleanings and examinations help identify and address gum health concerns before they escalate into more severe issues.
As gum disease is generally silent and painless in its early stages, many people may be unaware that they have a problem. Regular dental visits play a crucial role in catching gingivitis or periodontitis early on, increasing the chances of effective treatment.
During a dental examination, dentists perform a periodontal screening to assess gum health. A specific periodontal probe is used to measure the depth of the pockets between the teeth and gums. Healthy pockets usually range between 1 to 3 millimeters in depth. If pockets are deeper, it may indicate the presence of gum disease.
Apart from the pocket depths, dentists also assess bleeding on probing, loss of connective tissue attachment, and bone loss. These factors help to determine the severity of the gum disease and guide the correct treatment approach.
Assessing Gum Health
It is essential to learn the signs indicative of good or poor gum health in order to self-assess and seek professional help when needed. Here are some indicators that can help you assess your gum health:
Color and texture:
Healthy gums should appear pink and firm. Red, swollen, or shiny gums can indicate inflammation and the presence of gingivitis or periodontitis.
If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, it is a telltale sign that something is amiss. While occasional bleeding can be a result of vigorous brushing, persistent bleeding may indicate an underlying issue that needs addressing.
Consistent bad breath or an unpleasant taste in the mouth can be a sign of gum disease. It may occur due to the buildup of bacteria in the gum pockets.
Receding gums expose the roots of the teeth, which can lead to tooth sensitivity. If you experience sensitivity, visit your dentist to assess gum health and identify appropriate preventive measures.
Gum health is inextricably connected to overall health, prevention of tooth loss, and general well-being. It is crucial to maintain good oral hygiene, schedule regular dental visits, and monitor your gum health to prevent any serious complications.