Do you often regret not caring for your teeth when younger?If you neglect your teeth it will almost certainly catch up with you at some point of your life as gum disease. Whether it is not maintaining a good oral hygiene, not getting your faulty tooth filling corrected or not replacing a missing tooth; all these lead could lead to the same problem – gum disease.
Brushing protects our teeth for a very short time– A few minutes after brushing, a very thin layer made up of saliva, proteins, and bacteria (also called the pellicle) is formed on the tooth surface which acts as a base for bacterial attachment and growth.
It all begins with plaque formation– Within a few hours the accumulation of various species of bacteria along with sugar from the food we eat results in formation of a pale yellow or white sticky substance known as dental plaque. It develops on the tooth surfaces throughout the day.
Professional cleaning of teeth is very important– If the plaque remains on the teeth, it undergoes mineralisation and forms a hard, flaky substance called calculus. You may be able to notice these as yellowish, greenish or greyish hard deposits on the teeth that are not easily removed with the toothbrush. Professional scaling or cleaning is the only way these deposits can be removed. Ideally, one needs to get scaling or professional cleaning done at least once a year.
Look out for the first signs of gum problems– The acids and toxins produced by the bacteria in the plaque along with the irritation caused by the hard calculus irritate your gums. This causes gingivitis – your gums are red, swollen and easily bleed. They may also be painful to touch. If there is any injury to the gums from toothbrush bristles, sharp piece of food, the bacteria may reach deep inside the gums and result in pus discharge (Gingival abscess).
If neglected, could lead to tooth loss– If the cause for the gingivitis is left untreated, it leads to periodontitis. The supporting structures in the gums are destroyed and it starts detaching from the tooth to form pockets. There may be pus formation and it could cause a foul-smelling breath. The infection also causes destruction of bone supporting the tooth causing it to become loose and may shift or ultimately may lead to tooth loss.
Plaque also weakens the tooth enamel- This makes it easier for the bacteria to reach tooth pulp, the innermost layer of tooth which contains blood vessel and nerves. If untreated, infection from the pulp may spread to the periodontal ligament (fibres that attach tooth to the bone). This could cause periodontitis leading to destruction of supporting structures and hence loss of teeth.