Everyone is born with two sets of teeth; your primary (or “baby”) teeth, and your permanent teeth. Both are equally important to take care of, and equally susceptible to gingivitis. Gingivitis is gum inflammation that is primarily caused by bacteria in plaque buildup. With normal maintenance and good hygiene practices, it is possible to avoid gingivitis.
However, in the case of partially erupted, or impacted teeth, avoiding gingivitis can be especially challenging. A normal erupted tooth is any tooth that has appeared through the gums and shown itself from the surrounding tissue. Wisdom teeth however, are often partially erupted or impacted.
This makes the wisdom teeth especially hard to clean around and highly susceptible to gingivitis. This condition is known as Pericoronitis.
Wisdom teeth are the third molars in the back of the mouth, and the last set of teeth to come in – if they come in at all. Often, they do not have enough room to grow normally or emerge properly, and this is what causes them to be susceptible to the gum disease gingivitis. These teeth can be either partially or fully impacted and often emerge between the ages of 17 and 25. A fully-impacted tooth never breaks through the gum, where as a partially impacted tooth shows the crown, and in this situation it is possible for gingivitis to develop.
The signs of gingivitis are red, swollen, and/or bleeding gums. It can cause pain of the gingival flap that is over the partially erupted tooth. This often happens when food becomes stuck under the gum, leading to a bacterial infection. In a fully erupted tooth the gingival flap would disappear and be unable to trap food.
So why is gingivitis a problem to take seriously? Gingivitis itself is easily treatable, and does not lead to any permanent damage of the bone or gums. However, left untreated gingivitis can lead to a condition called Periodontitis. Periodontitis pulls the inner layer of gum and bone away from the teeth and forms pockets. These pockets then are able to collect food particles and become infected. The plaque will then spread and grow bacteria beneath the gum line.
Your immune system tries to fight off the bacteria, but both the bacteria, as well as your body’s immune system, begin to break down the bone and the gums that hold the teeth in place. As this progresses, the teeth will be lost. Gum disease is the number one reason for tooth loss in Adults.
So this begs the question, how can you both avoid gingivitis, and treat it? Well that is very simple. To avoid it, take note of areas that are especially challenging to clean, like those around wisdom teeth, and take care to brush and floss those areas well. Anti-bacterial mouth wash can also help rid your mouth of bacteria that can cause gum disease. Regular dental check-ups in our office – ideally, twice a year – will also help prevent gingivitis, and consequently more serious gum diseases, from forming.
If you suspect that you might have gingivitis it’s important to make an appointment to come see us right away. We’ll start by checking your gums for bleeding, swelling, and pocket depth. We’ll also check your jaw to detect any breakdown of bone near your teeth. Depending on the severity, a professional cleaning from our staff might be all that you need to clear up any issues. In more extreme cases, we may have to scrape hard plaque that has formed under the gums, or prescribe anti-biotic treatments.
With proper care and maintenance an erupted or partially impacted tooth may never cause a problem. Knowing how to care for these teeth, and the warning signs of a problem will help maintain gum health throughout your life.