IT IS well established that gum disease in its advanced state is the leading cause of tooth loss worldwide. It is this disease that is responsible for a significant portion of the toothless grins that we see so frequently. It is the same disease that contributes so greatly to the tens of thousands of denture existing mouths of our compatriots.
For some indiscernible reason, nature has decided that the most devastating diseases of humans do not generally present notable warning signs. Among the numerous are cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and gum disease. For example, this happens to seven out of every ten Guyanese adults who have natural teeth. You are brushing your teeth and when you rinse and spit, you see blood. No big deal, you think to yourself; after all, nothing is hurting and it happens all the time anyway.
Well, it is time to think again. You are very likely to be suffering from the worse dental disease in the books. Bleeding gums is a major sign of periodontal disease, chronic gingivitis or periodontitis. All these high sounding words simply denote the condition we know common as gum disease.
Gingivitis is inflammation, swelling and bleeding of the gum tissue caused by bacteria that naturally coats everyone’s teeth. The bacteria form a sticky, whitish film on the teeth called plaque. If the plaque is not properly removed every day, the bacteria produce poisons that irritate the gums and make them red, swollen and likely to bleed easily.
Eventually, the poisons destroy the gum tissue causing it to separate from the tooth and form pockets. The pockets hold more bacteria and detach even further. This stage of the disease cannot be reversed and it can destroy the bone and soft tissue that support the teeth. This is why they shake excessively and have to be extracted.
Most gingivitis results from poor oral hygiene. Incidentally, the cases of gingivitis which do not come as a consequence of poor oral hygiene may cause as a result of AIDS.
Gingivitis usually develops due to not brushing and flossing correctly or sufficiently and not having teeth professionally cleaned regularly.
Other factors may increase the risk of developing gingivitis. These include stress, hormonal imbalances like pregnancy, menstruation and the changing hormones of adolescence. Some diseases such as diabetes and drugs like Dilantin (used to treat fits) can cause gingivitis flare-ups. Even habitually breathing through the mouth, which tends to dry out the gums and cause overgrowth of the gum tissue, can enhance the chance of one acquiring gingivitis.
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and it is completely curable. The damage caused by gum disease, on the other hand, cannot be repaired. How can you avoid gingivitis? Use the Dental One-in-One Rule, also known as the Rule of Thoroughness. Each tooth should be cleaned (brushed and flossed) for a period of one minute every 24 hours.
Find a routine and stick to it. Start at one spot in the mouth each time and work around the mouth the same way each time. It will help to be consistent and prevent missing tooth surfaces. Remember to brush the tongue, gums and palate. If possible use tartar control toothpaste.
It should be noted that toothpaste is not necessary to maintain good oral health. Finally, rinsing the mouth vigorously with plain water helps to keep down the bacteria population as a temporary measure in the absence of brushing.