What happens if I neglect my gums?

Do you notice bleeding gums after flossing or brushing? Is the colour of your gums changing into a darker shade of pink? If that’s the case, you may want to get your gums checked to determine whether you may have what is known as periodontal disease – or gum disease.

Most people associate a dentist as someone who fixes teeth, forgetting that a large part of everyday dentistry, including administering regular checks and cleans, is aimed at preserving and protecting the health of your gums.

A person’s mouth contains millions of microscopic bacteria, although not all of which are harmful to the human body. However, it doesn’t take long before harmful bacteria in the mouth makes contact with food particles and mucus to form a sticky, hardened substance known as plaque – which gives rise to gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums.

Gingivitis is what generally causes mild bleeding and swollen gums. If left untreated, this mild form of gum disease can develop into the more severe type known as periodontitis – which occurs when the bacteria reach deep below the gum line and attack the bone and tissues.

In advanced cases of periodontitis, teeth may be lost or extracted. The problem of losing teeth through tooth loss or extraction is more than a cosmetic issue or the procedural pain. Missing teeth can speed up the destruction of the jawbone and can cause the remaining teeth to shift – causing crowding or gapping and an uneven or misaligned bite.

Besides having embarrassing gaps in your smile, tooth loss will also compromise chewing and clear speech, which can have knock-on effects on your sense of confidence and level of happiness.

Gum disease and tooth decay are also interrelated in some cases. As plaque weakens and deteriorates your gums, the teeth in which the jaw bone supports can also become vulnerable to infection and disease.

The plaque and tartar that builds on your gums over time can also penetrate the tooth’s exterior layer known as enamel and begin to infect the tooth pulp and roots. When this happens, more intensive dental procedures such as a root canal will become necessary to save the tooth and stop the damage to your jawbone.

Besides impacting your oral health, recent studies have even linked periodontitis to serious medical conditions like diabetes, heart attack and stroke. Indeed, gum disease is perhaps one of the most overlooked problems facing healthcare today. Research now suggests that the bacterium that causes gum disease can actually travel through our blood stream and can invade various organs in our body, making existing conditions worse. The fact that this process can take many years makes it more difficult to track or notice – hence gum disease has come to be rightly called “the silent enemy” by many medical professionals.

As you can tell, the health of your gums is of great importance to your oral and overall health. The good news is that it is treatable if detected early. If you notice your gums bleeding or your gums are irritated, swollen or sensitive, contact your dentist as soon as possible.

The adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ is probably more true for periodontal disease than any other dental ailments.

For early detection, prevention and intervention of gum disease, book an appointment with our Friendly Dentist in Molonglo Valley. Contact Molonglo Dental Surgery at 02 6287 1222. 

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