Keep Gums Healthy

PUBLISHED: 11:09 01 May 2009 | UPDATED: 15:59 20 February 2013

Keep teeth and gums healthy

Keep teeth and gums healthy

In this May issue, Cornwall Life asks an expert on how to care for your gums to ensure a healthy mouth

Keep Gums Healthy

How well do you know your gums? Cornwall Life asks an expert for advice on how to look after them properly

The mouth is the perfect environment for bugs and bacteria to thrive in - it's dark, moist and warm, and there is a constant supply of nutrients. Hundreds and hundreds of different types of micro-organisms work together to create colonies or families, which can run wild if not managed properly. In fact, most people are unaware of the billions of bacteria inhabiting their mouth and the effect they can have on their teeth and gums, and also on their general health. To put this in context, there are more bacteria in most people's mouths than on the average toilet seat, and that's after brushing. Shocking, isn't it?

Eliminating the bacteria from our mouths is impossible and would also be detrimental to the symbiotic relationship we have with our invisible friends. We all have bacteria in our mouths but

there is a delicate balance between a healthy mouth and one that shows signs of gum disease or decay.

The bacterial families grow rapidly to produce a bio-film called plaque. Plaque is the white, sticky layer that will always develop on our teeth whether we brush well or not at all. The amount of plaque we produce is variable but very dependent on the foods that we eat. However, if plaque remains on the teeth and is not removed then it becomes very destructive. The bacteria feed on the nutrients derived from foods that are eaten and produce acids and toxins which can cause decay and inflammation of the gums, and ultimately destruction of the jaw bone.

So what are the signs and symptoms of gum disease? The main ones are bleeding on brushing or flossing, sore and swollen gums, bad breath, recession and loose teeth. However, many people are completely unaware that their gums are under attack. And it really is a battle.

Your teeth sit in the bone of your upper and lower jaws. Like an iceberg, the majority of the tooth, the root, sits under the gums stabilising the tooth from below. Bacteria particularly like to inhabit the areas around the gum line and between the teeth and gum. The toxins produced by the bacteria irritate the gum and destroy the surrounding bone. Long term, bone loss results in reduced support and wobbly teeth, which can ultimately fall out.

So how can we stop the bacteria causing bone loss? Good oral hygiene is critical. Most people have never been taught how to care for their own mouth properly. No two mouths are the same and everyone needs a specific cleaning programme to accommodate fillings, crowns, bridges, dentures, spaces and teeth with a history of gum disease.

The principles are similar but often the application must vary to achieve the desired result. Other factors such as smoking, hereditary traits and some health-related issues such as diabetes can all exacerbate gum disease. Good oral health and regular visits to your hygienist can maintain your teeth for the long term.

So, as the sun begins to shine and we all start to smile at each other, have a thought for your gums. Past generations lost their teeth because there was little knowledge of how to treat gum disease. People accepted dentures at a very young age. Today we don't need to do that. Over the past 20 years there have been vast quantities of research into the development and treatment of gum disease. Do you want a denture? Or is now the time to visit your dentist?

This article was written by Dr Crighton, Principal of Dental Dimensions and Vital Dental Service, 11 Castle Street, Launceston (01566 773873.

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