Our mouths are home to billions of tiny microbes that feed on the food that we eat. In our evolutionary past, people used to eat the kinds of foods that were beneficial for oral health, like roots and tubers. There were no toothbrushes for thousands of years, yet people generally had healthy teeth. The reason for this, researchers think, is because of healthy foods select for beneficial mouth bacteria – the kind whose byproducts do not inflame the gumline and lead to gum disease.
The bacteria which thrive on modern, sugary foods, however, are different. Over time, sugar-eating bacteria churn out inflammatory factors that damage the lining of the gums. If someone neglects to clean their teeth for a couple of days, they induce microscopic damage to the gumline as the bacteria begins to penetrate the tight seal between the gum and the tooth. Within a few days of not brushing on a high-sugar diet, the gum becomes visibly red and inflamed and may start to bleed if brushing resumes.
The Dangers Of Gum Disease
Gum disease is harmful. Not only are gum infections painful, but they can lead to tooth loss, tooth decay, and even bone loss. Gingivitis is the initial stage of gum disease where the byproducts of all those sugar-eating bacteria damage the gum to the point where it loses its integrity and begins to bleed. Gingivitis, in turn, can lead to the more severe condition of periodontitis.
Periodontitis occurs when the seal between the gum and the tooth fails, and a gap opens up. Food and plaque bacteria get into this gap and thrive in the moist warm environment. Periodontitis is a serious condition which can result in facial bulging, the breakdown of surrounding bone, and damage to the structure of nearby teeth, including the root canal.
How To Prevent Gum Disease And Tooth Decay
The good news is that you can take steps to prevent gum disease or tooth loss from emerging in the first place.
First, you need to brush your teeth at least twice per day, once in the morning, and once in the evening, with fluoride toothpaste. Manual toothbrushes are okay, but many dental professionals recommend electric toothbrushes, thanks to their superior ability to clear plaque. If you have gaps between your teeth, you may also want to brush once per day with interdental brushes to scrub areas inaccessible to conventional brushes.
The second step is to visit your dentist regularly. If bacteria have managed to penetrate the gumline, then regular brushing will be less effective. A dentist can use special tools to eliminate bacteria below the gum, preventing flareups and possible damage to your teeth.
If you’re a new or existing patient and you want to schedule a checkup or have any questions, contact us today!