What is gum disease? Good question. To answer that, we’ll take a quick look at what healthy gums are and what they do, and that will help us get an idea of what your dentist means when he talks about gum disease or unhealthy gums.
Your gums help hold your teeth in place and protect the sensitive roots and nerves in your teeth. The gums also cover and protect parts of the jawbones. Healthy gums are firm and pink, and they wrap tightly around the base of each tooth. When gums become infected because of prolonged exposure to bacteria (most often caused by poor brushing and oral health habits), they often begin to show symptoms like swelling, redness, bleeding, and sensitivity.
A mild form of gum disease called gingivitis is fairly common in children. In periodontitis, a more advanced infection, the gums begin to pull away from the teeth. Space between the gums and the teeth allows pockets of food and bacteria to gather under the gumline, forming plaque and tartar and leading to chronic bad breath, painful chewing problems, loose teeth, tooth decay, gum recession, and eventually, tooth loss.
Treatment for gum disease can be surgical or non-surgical depending on the patient and the severity of the damage. There are several ways to address damage from gum disease, but the most important step towards healing and maintaining gum health is consistent brushing and flossing. Those little health habits really do make a difference!
(P.S. Interestingly enough, it’s quite possible to have gum disease, but not experience pain or any of the telltale symptoms. That’s one reason why it’s important to keep up with regular cleaning appointments. Your dentist helps keep an eye on your gum health as well as your teeth.)