When people think of their oral health, they typically focus on their teeth—often thinking of pearly, white teeth as the epitome of perfect oral health. While having healthy teeth is a large component of optimum oral hygiene, your gums play a crucial role. Any family dentist near you will tell you that the key to a healthy mouth is preventative care, which includes taking care of your gums.
Gums are a line of defense
Think of your gums are the main line of defense for keeping your body in overall good health. They form a seal around your teeth that keeps the bad stuff out and the good stuff in. The oral cavity is home to as many as 700 bacterial species, many of which are the “bad” stuff. When your gums are healthy, they help protect your teeth from bacteria and germs that can eventually eat away at the bone and cause tooth loss.
Plaque build-up and gum disease
When you don’t care for your gums, various issues can arise- including periodontal disease, a common form of gum disease. In most cases, poor oral hygiene is to blame, as it increases dental plaque formation. Dental plaque is the see-through, sticky film that forms on the surface of the teeth. It may be translucent at first, but it becomes visible and detectable within 12 hours. The longer the plaque stays on the teeth, the greater its chances of hardening into tartar, which not only stains the teeth but irritates the gums too.
This irritation is one of the first signs of gingivitis, the early stage of periodontal disease. Gingivitis causes your gums to become:
- Prone to bleeding
Gingivitis can potentially become more serious and progress to an advanced stage of periodontal disease called periodontitis. When bacteria under the gums are left untreated, it eventually spreads further and can affect the bones and tissues of your teeth and jaw. Your immune system is working harder to mediate the disease; therefore, your overall health has the potential to also be affected.
Periodontitis has been shown to raise the risk of developing hypertension by 22% to 49%. Untreated gum disease can also trigger the immune system to become “hyperactive”, causing your body to continuously go on “defense” mode at the slightest trigger. This can put you at risk of allergic reactions because your immune system may think that every little thing that enters your body is an allergen. In the worst case, you may develop autoimmune disorders, wherein your body attacks even healthy cells. Untreated gum disease can also pave the way for bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Researchers say that, over time, this can result in damaged heart and brain blood vessels.
The good news, it’s preventable.
Thankfully, gingivitis and gum disease is preventable. Brushing your teeth regularly with an electric toothbrush with soft bristles, using floss, and making regular visits to Maestri Dental will help keep gingivitis away. There are many home remedies and other steps that you can take to reduce your risk of gingivitis—from incorporating more calcium-rich foods in your diet to using mouthwash daily.
Maintaining healthy oral hygiene not only keeps your gums healthy and your teeth sparkling, but it puts you at a much lower risk for several issues including, but not limited to:
- Chronic Respiratory Disease
- Pregnancy Complications
- Various Forms of Cancer