Often, we base the condition of our oral health to the state of our teeth.
We equate healthy teeth to good oral health.
We disregard other parts of the mouth, missing out on the fact that oral health is more than a good set of teeth.
As much as the hardest substance in the human body is important, its surrounding areas such as the gums are also vital to oral and overall health.
Gums or the gingivae are part of the soft tissue lining of the mouth and comprise of the mucosal tissue that sits over the mandible and maxilla inside the mouth. They surround and provide a seal around the teeth, tightly bound to the underlying bone which helps resist the friction of food consumption.
The gum is anatomically divided into the marginal, attached, and interdental.
- A marginal gum has a width from 0.5 to 2.0 mm. It is the edge of the gums surrounding the teeth and follows a scalloped pattern established by the contour of the cementoenamel junction of the teeth.
- An attached gum is continuous with the marginal gum. It is tightly bound to the underlying dense layer of the vascular connective tissues of the alveolar bone called the periosteum. It has varying width depending on the area of the mouth, with the widest at the incisor region that ranges from 3.5 to 4.5 mm.
- An interdental gum occupies the gingival embrasure or the interproximal space beneath the area of the tooth contact.
When healthy, the gingiva is an effective barrier to bacteria and support to the bones. However, certain factors contribute to the deterioration of gum health that can lead to periodontal diseases.
Periodontal disease or simply gum disease is an infection of the tissues and bones surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is usually classified into two types: gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease. When plaque and tartar stay long on the teeth, the bacteria cause inflammation of the gums which can become red, swollen, and bleed easily. Gingivitis involves no bone loss and tissue. It can also be reversed with daily brushing and flossing, as well as, regular dental cleaning.
- Periodontitis or the inflammation around the tooth is an advanced case of gum diseases that can involve damage to the bones, gums, and tissues, if not treated. In this condition, the gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces called pockets that become infected.
Hormonal changes in women, diabetes, other illnesses and their treatments such as AIDS, medications, and genetic susceptibility increase the likelihood of developing gum disease. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) also branded smoking as one of the most significant risk factors to the development of periodontal diseases. Poor oral health and bad eating habits also contribute to the likelihood of suffering gum diseases.
Indications of periodontal diseases include:
- Bad breath
- Red or swollen
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Pain when chewing
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Receding gums
- Pus coming from the gums
When you notice any of these symptoms, it is best to visit your dentist immediately. During your visit, your dentist or hygienist will ask about your medical history to identify your underlying conditions and risk factors about the gum disease. It will also involve an examination of your gums with a probe to check and measure for any pockets.
An X-ray will be conducted to check for possible bone loss. Afterward, your dentist will refer you to a periodontist who is the experts in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease.
Healthy gums are important, not only to our oral health but also to general health. According to medical researchers, individuals with periodontal diseases are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and respiratory infections.
You can also consult your dentist for possible measures to achieve healthy gums.