Healthy gums play a vital role in protecting your teeth from infection, and increasing the chances that you’ll keep your teeth for life. In addition, many studies suggest that healthy gums may lower your risk of suffering serious conditions such as heart disease and stroke.
When your gums are healthy, they form a seal around your teeth that prevents harmful bacteria from attacking the fibres and bones that hold your teeth in place. However, if you have gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, your gums can become inflamed and swollen, and bleed easily – such as when you brush them.
If the early stages of gum disease aren’t treated, deep pockets can form between the tooth and the gums, which will eventually lead to the tooth becoming loosened due to the damage being caused to the connective tissue and bone. Your gums can recede and your teeth may either fall out or require extraction.
Additionally, when your gums are infected, it’s easier for bacteria in your mouth to enter the bloodstream. Once the bacteria reach your arteries, it can irritate them in the same way it irritates your gums, possibly hardening the arteries, affecting blood flow or triggering the formation of clots. In turn this could lead to a heart attack or even a stroke.
Scaling means cleaning the tooth surface from above the gum line and in any shallow pockets that may have formed between the tooth and the gum, carefully and thoroughly removing all plaque build-up (i.e. calculus deposits). Depending on how much scaling needs to be done, you may be given a local anaesthetic. After the treatment, your gums may feel sore for a few days and your teeth may be more sensitive for a period of time.
If you have more advanced gum disease, other treatment may be required such as:
If inflammation and deep pockets remain after scaling and deep cleaning, you may require ‘flap’ surgery, which involves lifting back the gums to remove the calculus deposits.
If a filling is contributing to the gum disease, this may need to be reshaped or replaced.
Deep cleaning or root surface debridement
This treatment is designed to remove toxins and bacteria from the root surfaces of the tooth. In most cases you’ll be given a local anaesthetic for this procedure. You may need to make multiple visits to complete the treatment.
Bleeding gums are not a natural sign and generally indicate poor gum health. This may manifest as blood in your saliva when brushing teeth and can indicate gingivitis, which is reversible with advice and action. However, it may indicate a deep-seated problem called periodontitis, which can cause tooth loss and affect your general health and well-being. Visit your dentist as soon as possible for a diagnosis and advice. It is your choice what to do about it, but gum disease is preventable and treatment is generally effective, resulting in teeth for life, including greater confidence, self-esteem and quality of life.
The most effective thing you can do to prevent gingivitis and periodontitis is to remove the bacterial plaque from your teeth by brushing. Your dental team will demonstrate specific techniques. Their professional guidance is vital, just “brushing” may not work.
- Manual and power (electric) tooth brushes are both effective, but rechargeable power brushes (NOT battery powered brushes) are slightly better. Your dental team will advise you which to use, but remember that both types are effective.
- Generally, small-headed brushes with medium bristles are advised, however we don’t know yet if one design is significantly better than another.
- You should brush twice a day: ideally before breakfast (and after if you wish to remove food from your teeth) and before bed-time, but allow about 30 minutes after you eat.
- If your gums are healthy and you wish to prevent the onset of gingivitis, then 2 minutes brushing is advisable; however if you have gum disease this will be insufficient time.