You may not think about them all that often, but having healthy gums is crucial for enjoying a healthy, lasting smile. During a checkup and cleaning, your dentist and/or hygienist will check to make sure you aren’t experiencing gum disease — and if you are, an appropriate treatment will be recommended right away. Keep reading to find out how periodontal health is evaluated, and why it’s crucial for your lasting smile.
Evaluating Your Gums
Gums should typically be light pink in color and should not bleed easily. In a healthy smile, the periodontal tissue is secure around the teeth and no pockets have formed. When these conditions are not present, you are at a higher risk of tooth loss and a number of seemingly unrelated health problems, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and others.
Your dental hygienist will check on your gum health during the exam and cleaning portion of a routine visit. By gently probing the gums with a special instrument, he or she can see how likely they are to bleed while also gauging sensitivity. Gum recession will also be noted during the exam. Several things, including gum disease, aggressive tooth brushing, and excessive clenching/ grinding can cause the gum tissue to pull away from where it should be against the teeth, resulting in sensitivity and, potentially, eventual tooth loss. Finally, the presence and depth of periodontal pockets will be noted. These are areas of infection where bacteria, living between the teeth and gums, have caused loss of bone in the area.
Keeping Your Gums Healthy
If gum disease is present, your dentist will recommend a plan of action based on the type and severity of the infection. The most common infection is called gingivitis which can easily be completely reversed with additional visits to the dentist and improved oral hygiene practices at home. A different disease, called periodontal disease, can develop. In this condition, permanent damage to the gums and bone begins to occur. Once bone loss has occurred, the disease will require treatment with scaling and root planing (SRP) to stop its progress. This is a nonsurgical treatment where plaque, calculus (tartar), and bacteria are removed above and below the gum line. If the periodontal pockets have reached a certain depth, however, SRP alone will not stop the slow progress of the disease. The most severe cases of gum disease will require surgical treatment.
To keep your gums healthy to prevent or manage periodontal disease, remember the following:
- Brush and floss your teeth as recommended: that means brushing your teeth for two minutes, twice a day, and flossing between teeth daily.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste to remineralize tooth enamel and provide a solid defense against the plaque and tartar buildup which leads to gum disease.
- Maintain a balanced, nutritious, low-sugar diet.
- Stop or do not start smoking.
- Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth and body hydrated.
- Visit your dentist at least every six months for a checkup and cleaning, which includes a periodontal evaluation!
Your gum health is crucial for your oral and overall well-being as you age. By partnering with your dentist, you can enjoy a complete and healthy smile for years to come.
Meet the Dentist
Dr. L. Blaine Kennington has been practicing high-quality dentistry for over 3 decades and is a member of the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, and the Lower Columbia Dental Society, among other professional organizations. He places a big emphasis on creating healthy smiles through positive periodontal health. To learn more about why that matters or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kennington, don’t hesitate to get in touch by calling 360-274-9100.