Periodontial diseases (sometimes called gingival or gum disease) are infections that harm the gum and bone that hold teeth in place. When plaque stays on your teeth too long, it forms a hard, harmful covering, called tartar, that brushing doesn’t clean. The longer the plaque and tartar stay on your teeth, the more damage they cause. Your gums may become red, swollen and bleed easily. This is called gingivitis.
If gingivitis is not treated, over time it can make your gums pull away from your teeth and form pockets that can get infected. This is called periodontitis. If not treated, this infection can ruin the bones, gums and tissue that support your teeth. In time, it can cause loose teeth that your dentist may have to remove.
Here’s how you can prevent gum disease:
*Brush your teeth twice a day (with a fluoride toothpaste)
*Floss once a day
*Make regular visits to your dentist for a checkup and cleaning
*Eat a well-balanced diet
*Don’t use tobacco products
*Cleaning Your Teeth and Gums
Knowing how to brush and floss the right way is a big part of good oral health. Here’s how: every day gently brush your teeth on all sides with a soft-bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste. Small round motions and short back-and-forth strokes work best. Take the time to brush carefully and gently along the gum line. Lightly brushing your tongue also helps. Along with brushing, clean around your teeth with dental floss to keep your gums healthy. Careful flossing will remove plaque and leftover food that a toothbrush can’t reach. Rinse after you floss.
If brushing or flossing causes your gums to bleed or hurt your mouth, see your dentist. Your dentist also may prescribe a bacteria-fighting mouth rinse to help control plaque and swollen gums. Use the mouth rinse in addition to careful daily brushing and flossing. Some people with arthritis or other conditions that limit motion may find it hard to hold a toothbrush. It may help to attach the toothbrush handle to your hand with a wide elastic band. Some people make the handle bigger by taping it to a sponge or Styrofoam ball. People with limited shoulder movement may find brushing easier if they attach a long piece of wood or plastic to the handle. Electric toothbrushes can be helpful.
Scaling and Root Planing
Scaling and root planing is a non-surgical procedure in which the periodontist removes plaque and tartar from below the gum line. Root surfaces are cleaned and smoothed with specially designed instruments. It is important to remove the plaque and tartar from the pockets, because aside from the bacterial toxins that irritate the gums, plaque and the rough surfaces of tartar make it easier for bacteria to gain a foothold.
Oral Cancer Screening
Oral cancer most often occurs in people over age 40. It’s important to catch oral cancer early, because treatment works best before the disease has spread. Pain often is not an early symptom of the disease.
A dental check-up is a good time for your dentist to look for early signs of oral cancer. Even if you have lost all your natural teeth, you should still see your dentist for regular oral cancer exams. See your dentist or doctor if you have trouble with swelling, numbness, sores or lumps in your mouth, or if it becomes hard for you to chew, swallow, or move your jaw or tongue. These problems could be signs of oral cancer.
Here’s how you can lower your risk of getting oral cancer: don’t smoke; don’t use snuff or chew tobacco; if you drink alcohol, do so in moderation; use lip cream with sunscreen; and eat lots of fruits and vegetables.