The gums form a layer of protective tissue that surrounds the base of each tooth and covers part of the jawbones. Healthy gum forms a tight seal around the crown of a tooth and protects the sensitive tissues below from bacterial invasion. If the gums are damaged, the teeth may become unsupported and loose. Most gum disorders can be prevented by good oral hygiene.
Most adults have some degree of gum disease which, if left untreated, may eventually lead to loss of teeth. Good oral hygiene is essential to help to prevent gum disorders. During regular dental checkups, most dentists and oral hygienists provide information on the correct way to brush and floss teeth and on general mouth care.
The first topics covered here are gum disorders such as gingivitis and periodontitis, which may be caused by poor oral hygiene. Inadequate teeth cleaning leads to a build-up of plaque (a deposit of food particles, saliva, and bacteria) on the surfaces of the teeth. If the plaque is not removed, it causes the gums to become inflamed. In more serious cases, the teeth may be affected and loosen or come out, either because the periodontal tissues are inflamed and detach from the teeth or because the gums recede, exposing the roots and leading to tooth decay. The final article in this section discusses a condition called dry socket, in which a tooth socket becomes inflamed after the tooth has been extracted.
For more information on the structure and function of the gums, see Teeth and Gums.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.