Dental Education Lecture: Risks of Gum Diseases

One of the most prominent features of advanced gum diseases is gum recession (Fig.2 arrow, as compared to Fig.1 normal gums (pink) around our upper front teeth).  Our teeth may be sensitive to cold, sour and hot after gum receding.  If we continue ignoring oral hygiene, cavity occurs in our elongated and exposed root surface (black, Fig.3).  Since there is no enamel (the hardest tissue in our body, covering our crown) over the root surface, cavity there progresses rapidly, leading to infection of nerve inside of our tooth (red, Fig.4).  Pain associated with nerve infection is usually severe.  If not treated properly, the affected tooth is usually non-salvageable.

When you are diagnosed with gum diseases, you should promptly seek dental treatment: such as cleaning, deep cleaning, local antibiotic or gum surgery.  After appropriate treatment, you should practice better oral hygiene: 45 degree brushing, flossing, and using a teeny tiny toothbrush.  The special mini toothbrush is shown in the bottom of Fig.6 as compared to a regular brush on the top).  We can use this small brush just like a toothpick, inserting between teeth as shown in the middle of Fig.5).  Unlike toothpick, the tiny brush (called proxibrush by dental professionals) has soft short bristle for effective cleaning.  To make it more efficient, you should rinse the brush each time after you clean a space between 2 teeth to get rid of junk attached to bristles of the mini brush.  It is best to rinse in a prescription mouth rinse called Chlorhexidine.  The germs causing gum diseases are susceptible to this special mouth rinse.  Flossing along the entire exposed root and crown surface is an equally good way of keeping root healthy.  Two black dots on the right side of Fig.5 represent floss in its up and low end of root surface; double ended arrow indicates the extent the floss should glide against the root surface.  

Xin Wei, DDS, PhD, MS 1st edition 01/28/2009, last revision 02/11/2009