Brush Up: Do you know what causes gum disease?

By: Staff

Periodontitis can cause gingivitis.

It's the other way around: Gingivitis, or mild gum disease, can lead to the more serious kind, periodontitis.

Gum disease is irreversible.

This is only partly true. Gingivitis can be reversed; periodontitis cannot.

Brushing with a lot of firm, vigorous up-and-down strokes can dislodge tartar.

Tartar hardens on the teeth and most of it needs to be removed by a dental professional. And it is not a good idea to brush teeth too hard or with up and down force because it can damage gum tissues. Using soft bristles and gentle, angled and circular motions prevents gum recession. Brushing correctly and often can prevent tartar, but it can't get rid of it once it's attached to teeth.

A professional who specializes in caring for the gums is called an endodontist.

An endodontist is a trained specialist in treating the insides and inner roots of teeth. Often, endodontists are the ones who perform root canals.

A professional who specializes in caring for the gums is called a periodontist.

In addition to general dental school, periodontists have training that focuses on treating issues with gum tissue and gum disease.

Small, metal rulers called pokes measure the depth of space between the gums and teeth.

Dental probes marked off with lines are used to measure the area where teeth and gums meet. Generally this probing doesn’t hurt, but sometimes they do poke into sore or sensitive parts of the mouth.

Normal or healthy pockets between teeth and gums are between 3 and 5 millimeters.

A healthy distance or depth is about 1 to 3 millimeters.

Children rarely have gum disease.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, mild gingivitis is common in children.

People with dentures, or those who lose some teeth, no longer have to worry about getting gum disease where teeth are missing.

Gum disease is of particular concern for those who have partial dentures or bridges, which tend to attract bacteria growth. And individuals who wear dentures can still get gum disease, which can break down tissues and bones and make dentures loose or ill-fitting.

Poor dental hygiene is the leading cause of gum disease.

Although other causes contribute, poor or insufficient oral hygiene leads to most cases of gingivitis and later, periodontitis.

Scraping and root plating are commonly used to clean teeth deep down.

Scaling and root planing are the actual names of the techniques used for cleaning teeth above and below the gum line so that gum irritation will subside and gum tissues will tighten up around teeth.

Antibiotics are used to fight gum disease in only the most extreme cases.

Many treatments for gum disease utilize antibiotics to kill off toxins, especially in cases where deep pockets have formed and bacteria is collecting. Stopping or relieving infections is a big part of gum disease treatment.

In response to increased bacteria around the roots of teeth and down deep into the gums, the human body grows more bone to protect the mouth.

The body's response is to attack the infection, and often connective tissues and bones suffer loss of firmness and mass. Recession of the gums and resorption of bone are actually a result, in part, to how the body fights the disease in the first place.

Increased blood flow to the mouth ensures that pregnant women have an extra layer of gum protection during pregnancy.

Hormones can wreak havoc on the mouth during pregnancy, with increased estrogen leading to swollen and bleeding gums and mouth soreness.

This mouth condition in pregnant women is called pregnancy gingivitis.

It is typical gingivitis, and thankfully, it can be reversed after the baby is born and hormone levels normalize. Vigilant oral care is important during and after pregnancy, though.

Gum disease will definitely lead to symptoms of heart disease.

Studies have shown many links between heart disease and gum disease but nothing definitive has linked the two conditions with absolute, proven certainty.

Your parents can give you gum disease.

Genetics can make you prone to getting gum disease.

Plaque is the leading cause of gum disease.

When plaque is left on teeth it hardens to tartar and aggravates gums, leading to inflammation and gingivitis, which in turn can worsen to periodontitis.

Periodontitis is reversible.

Gingivitis is reversible, periodontitis is not, though it is very treatable.

Successful gum disease treatment will leave you edentulous!

Let's hope not. Edentulous means lacking teeth or toothless. Successful treatment is much more likely to help you keep your teeth. Really!

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About This Quiz

Fortunately, a little knowledge about gum disease can lead to a lifetime of better care to prevent and conquer it, or at least to keep your teeth where they belong: in your mouth. What do immunity, fertility and even heredity have to do with how pink your gums are and how well they hold your teeth? And is it just the gums that hold those choppers in place? Bone up on your knowledge of all things gummy; it might not be as scary as you think.

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