The tops, or crowns, of your teeth may be the most visible parts, but they’re only a portion of the structures that make up your smile. The bottom halves of your teeth, called the roots, are surrounded by a soft, pink layer of tissue known interchangeably as periodontal tissue, gingival tissue, or, more commonly, your gums. If you’ve ever needed treatment for gum disease, then you’re probably already aware of the importance of this tissue. If not, then you might wonder why we have gums in the first place. The truth is that your periodontal tissue is one of the most vital sections of your dental health, and without it, you probably wouldn’t have much of a smile to speak of.
Why Do We Have Gums?
Your teeth serve several fairly obvious purposes. They fill out your smile; they’re necessary to bite, chew, and process your food; and they help you enunciate your words so you can speak clearly. Equally as important, though much less obvious, your gums serve to protect your teeth’s roots, which stabilize your teeth so they can fulfill their duties. While the crowns of your teeth are surrounded by enamel, the roots aren’t, and your gums are the seal that protects the vulnerable roots from infectious bacteria.
Keeping Teeth in Their Place
It might not seem like much when there’s food between your chomping teeth, but on average, the human bite can generate up to 180 pounds of pressure. As small as your teeth are, they’re among the most resilient parts of your body, and thanks to the roots that support them, teeth can usually absorb this pressure successfully. Besides protecting your teeth roots, periodontal tissue also helps keep them steady as they emerge from your jawbone, ending where the crown begins.
What Bleeding Gums Mean
Have you ever noticed a little pink mixed in with your saliva when you brush your teeth, even though your toothpaste isn’t the slightest shade of red? Your gums probably don’t hurt, so you might not take the warning sign seriously, but when gingival tissue bleeds, you should be concerned. As oral bacteria gather along your gum line, they can incite inflammation and damage the connective tissue between your gums and teeth. The bacterial infection, known as gingivitis, is a precursor to periodontal disease, and can be spotted by redness, swelling, and occasional bleeding in your gums.
If you seek treatment promptly, then Dr. Fondriest may be able to reverse gingivitis with a deep periodontal cleaning and advice for improving your hygiene. If you procrastinate, then periodontal disease will settle in and can destroy the gums and jawbone that support your teeth.
The Significance of Periodontal Disease
Because it often goes unnoticed or ignored until the situation becomes severe, many patients don’t seek treatment in time to save all of their teeth. In fact, severe gum disease (periodontitis) is the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the United States. That alone makes healthy gums a vital part of your smile, but numerous studies have shown that periodontal disease can also influence your systemic wellbeing. When your gums and other oral tissues are bleeding, then brushing your teeth or biting down when you eat can release bacteria into your bloodstream. The gum germs responsible for inciting inflammation can cause similar damage throughout other areas of the body. Besides tooth loss, unchecked gum disease has also been linked to;
- Chronic heart disease, including atherosclerosis (an arterial disease that often leads to heart attack and failure)
- Respiratory infections, from bacteria being inhaled into the lower respiratory tract
- Certain forms of dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease, that experts believe develop in part due to inflammation in the brain
About Your Wilmette Dentist:
Aside from providing expert family, general, and restorative dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve the Chicago metropolitan area including the North Shore and Northwest suburbs. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.