Your gums play an important role in keeping your teeth where they need to be. The soft pink tissue of your gums surrounds and holds onto your jawbones and the roots of your teeth, and while it’s not as strong or as tough as bone it can act like a kind of cement that holds your teeth in place. That means keeping your gums healthy not only keeps your teeth from falling out, it also protects your teeth from cavities and infections that might otherwise get past the enamel and damage the layers underneath.
Keeping your gums healthy is just as important as keeping your teeth healthy, but fortunately the things you do to keep your teeth clean are also good for keeping your gums in good shape. When you brush your teeth, you remove the plaque on your teeth and the bacteria that create it and tend to build up along the gum line. You also rub your gums, causing them to toughen up and stay tough in the face of infections and sharp foods.
Flossing is even more important when it comes to gum health. A lot of bacteria and plaque can build up in the spaces where your teeth and gums overlap, which is why you need a good flossing technique that reaches all the way down to the roots. You might feel a pinch when you rub floss along the base of your teeth, but it’s important to get the plaque out and not just the food particles that get trapped between your molars.
When you don’t brush and floss well enough, the bacteria that cause plaque can infect your gums and cause gingivitis, a condition that turns your gums red and causes them to swell. The infection makes your gums bleed and your breath stink, but it’s not a serious problem unless you let it progress to periodontitis.
When you have periodontitis, the infection can start to eat away at your gums and even the bone underneath that supports it. This means your tooth roots can become exposed to plaque-causing bacteria, and if things get too far it can even make your teeth come loose and fall out.
For advanced cases like this, a dentist may refer you to a periodontist. A periodontist is a dental specialist who understands gum disease and has several treatments that can end the disease’s progress, repair the damage, or otherwise help you keep your teeth in place. On top of that, a periodontist is also the specialist to see for dental implants since adding one involves cutting the gums and adding something to the bone underneath. So remember to take care of your gums along with your teeth, but remember who to call if things don’t go the way you plan.