The gums serve an important purpose in your oral health, and good periodontal care needs to be practiced in order to keep them healthy. They act as a sealant and protect the roots of your teeth against debris and friction. When healthy, the gums are an effective barrier against the many materials that could harm teeth. However, when disease is present, your gums cannot function properly. This can lead to dental issues.
What do healthy gums look like?
Gums that are healthy are generally pink in color but may be darker depending on your skin tone. Healthy gums should also be firm and fit tightly around the teeth.
Warning signs of unhealthy gums
Gums that are sensitive, painful or inflamed are all red flags that your periodontal care is lacking. If you notice your gums are discolored or feel raw, alert your dentist to any problem areas.
The most common form of gum disease is called gingivitis. This condition presents as inflamed, red, puffy gums that may feel sore. Another sign of this disease is gums that bleed easily, especially when flossing or brushing. Although gingivitis is mostly mild and treatable, if left to progress, it may advance into a more severe disease known as periodontitis. In the late stages of periodontitis, the gums recede and are unable to protect the teeth, causing tissue and bone loss. In some cases, tooth loss can occur.
Gum disease can be concerning, but there are many treatments to help you back on the road to a healthy mouth.
Non-surgical periodontal treatments
Scaling and planing
This procedure consists of careful cleaning around the root of the tooth. Scaling and root planing helps to remove plaque buildup from pockets deep in the gums. Using a variety of specialized tools, your dentist will clear out the space where your teeth and gums make contact in order to remove any tartar and harmful bacteria.
Usually, no further treatment is needed after scaling and planing, depending on the severity of the disease. Non-surgical treatments do have their limitations, though.
Surgical periodontal treatments
Gum graft surgery
When the gums have receded due to disease or aging, gum grafts can be employed to encourage gum development where gums are absent. During this procedure, a dentist uses gum tissue, usually from the palate, to cover the exposed tooth root. Gum recession can cause sensitivity, and graft surgery can help remedy this issue. Because grafting stops the progression of receding gums, it also improves the appearance of your smile.
Regenerative procedures are sometimes necessary when periodontal disease has advanced past the gum. Periodontitis can target and destroy the bone that supports your teeth.
When bone and tissue loss occurs, it can be reversed by a regenerative procedure. During this surgery, the dentist will fold the affected gum back to gain access to the bone. Grafts are then applied to boost the natural regeneration of the bone. This treatment will improve the possibility of keeping your natural teeth.
Deep pockets can form when periodontitis attacks the tissue. Once the gums and bone are destroyed, a space is left where bacteria thrive. As bacteria continues to advance and colonize, it produces acid. The acid eats away at the tissue and bone until these can no longer support a tooth. At this point, the tooth must be extracted.
Reduction of these pockets can improve the chances of saving your teeth. The bacteria is cleared out and the gums are smoothed back into place snugly on the teeth. Once the area is clean, your dentist will then secure the tissue to help it reattach to the now-healthy bone.
Be sure to practice good periodontal care to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as they can be.
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