As a dental hygienist, I spend a lot of time educating patients about the importance of healthy teeth and gums. Most patients understand the importance of healthy teeth; people brush twice daily and know they should get regular dental cleanings, x-rays, and exams to check for cavities. However, many patients do not understand the importance of healthy gums. I know this, because I hear all too often that patients brush, but they do not floss or use interdental aids like Waterpik water flosser. Remember: a toothbrush cannot get in between your teeth or under the gumline. If you are only brushing (not flossing or using an interdental aid), you are not removing all of the plaque bacteria that cause gum disease.
Many patients have a gum disease called gingivitis (red/inflamed gums that bleed easily), which can lead to a more serious gum disease called periodontitis (bone loss of the jawbone). Periodontitis can lead to tooth loss if there is no longer enough jawbone to hold the teeth in place. Gum disease also increases your risk for lung and heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, and other systemic conditions. We often forget that oral health impacts the overall health of your body.
I dare you to google images of periodontitis….go ahead…I’ll wait. Did you do it? Okay, now I have your attention! The good news is that gum disease is fairly preventable. Gingivitis is completely reversible, however; periodontitis is, unfortunately, irreversible. Once the jawbone is destroyed, it does not come back. It is true that hormones, diabetes, and genetics also play a role in gum disease, but it’s important to know things you can do to help prevent gum disease:
- Do not smoke or vape
- Talk to your doctor about how to control diabetes
- Consider extra dental cleanings and/or more thorough home care during hormonal changes like pregnancy and menstrual cycles
- Floss and/or use interdental aids daily to remove the bacteria that cause gum disease
- Add an antimicrobial mouth-rinse into your home care routine to reduce the bacteria that cause gum disease
- Use an electric toothbrush, like Philips Sonicare and Oral-B, to remove more bacteria than a manual toothbrush
- Be sure to have your regular preventative dental visits at least every 6 months
The bottom line is gum health is very important for your overall health. There are things you can do to help prevent gum disease. If you have gingivitis, it can be reversed with the same preventative measures listed above. If you have severe gingivitis or periodontitis, you may require a special dental cleaning called scaling and root planing, also known as a deep cleaning. Scaling and root planing requires you to be numb so the dental hygienist can clean under the gumline. Scaling and root planing requires two dental visits, as only half of your mouth can be numbed at a time. You may also be referred to a periodontist/gum and jawbone specialist to control your gum disease and maintain your oral health.
Virtudent can help make this process of gum disease prevention easier by bringing dental visits to your workplace. Dental hygienists from Virtudent will take intraoral photos of your gum tissue. They will also measure how much gum inflammation you have during a diagnostic procedure called periodontal charting. The hygienist will take x-rays to send to the dentist to check your jawbone level and refer you to a periodontist if needed. The Virtudent hygienist will review your current home-care routine and offer advice for any effective changes you can make to help prevent gum disease. Virtudent can monitor your gum health over time and will keep you informed about your status. The final takeaway, please take care of your gums! A Virtudent hygienist is happy to help you with this.