Everyone knows Smokey the Bear, that staple of the Advertising Bureau who reminds us dopey humans not to do dopey stuff such as lighting forests on fire.
As dentists, the team at Gentle Dental is at this moment voting for an advocate to prevent gum disease. How about Pinky the Gum?
OK, it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as a big bear in a ranger hat, but the word needs to get out about gum disease and how easy it is to prevent.
Prevention and gums go together
The gums may look like soft little customers, but they are pretty tough. You have to remember what the job of the gums is — to protect the roots of your teeth. That’s a big job, and if it is botched, you lose your teeth.
That’s why it’s so frustrating when our patients show signs of gingivitis and later periodontitis (the fancy term for gum disease). Both conditions are preventable.
The key is home hygiene and regular professional cleanings
Preventing gum disease is the basic stuff of home hygiene. Plaque is the sticky film that builds up on your teeth as the day progresses. The plaque has lots of bacteria in it. It’s easy to get rid of plaque, though. Attentive brushing twice a day and one daily flossing pretty much do the job.
But if you don’t brush, or brush haphazardly, plaque can build up. When this happens, plaque calcifies into tartar. Tartar is the whitish stuff that shows up on the lower parts of your teeth, particularly on the inside of your lower front teeth. Tartar can only be removed by professional cleaning at Gentle Dental or another dentist.
But if you skip your twice-yearly professional cleanings, then your tartar keeps accumulating. It makes its way under your gumline where it seriously irritates the gums. Now we’re leaving the realm of gum irritation (gingivitis) and entering gum disease (periodontitis).
Gingivitis first. Periodontitis later.
This gum irritation is still totally fixable with a cleaning and some more attentive home care. But once tartar is heading under your gums, things get serious. The gum irritation worsens, and the gums begin to pull away from the teeth causing pockets for form. These pockets hold all the bacteria from the plaque and that bacteria begin to attack the roots of the teeth. You can see where this is leading — tooth loss and jawbone deterioration.
Now, a trip to Gentle Dental will be necessary just to keep your teeth. We’ll need to do things such as gum planing and scaling. We’ll probably prescribe some antibiotics to stem the infection. If decay and infection have made its way into the dentin of a tooth or two, we’ll probably have to do a root canal just to save the tooth or teeth. Or we may need to extract a tooth.
And to think, all of this could have been prevented with simple brushing and flossing at home, combined with twice-yearly visits to Gentle Dental. See? We do need Pinky the Gum as a spokes issue!