What is periodontitis (gum disease) and how does it affect your health?
Periodontitis (gum disease) can easily take over your teeth and gums when you don't keep up with routine oral hygiene. Because it is typically painless in its early stages (gingivitis), it can easily evolve to an advanced stage before you become aware of any problems.
Plaque collects on your teeth and along the gum line, then hardens into a rough, porous deposit referred to as tartar or calculus. Pockets form between the teeth and irritated gums, and bacteria collect here, which can lead to other health problems such as cardiovascular disease. Once hardened, only your dentist will have the tools to remove plaque.
In its advanced stages, periodontitis can cause loss of bone structure and deterioration of gums - eventually even tooth loss. Did you know that gum disease is actually the most common dental condition in adults?
That’s why removing plaque with a rigorous daily hygiene routine of brushing and flossing as well as attending regular dental hygiene appointments are key for prevention – and for maintaining your oral health.
What are some of the ways that you can help prevent gum disease?
There are also some less obvious tips that may help you avoid gum disease or reduce your risk of getting it. You may want to:
Do your medications cause any side effects? Certain medications can contribute to and aggravate gum disease, including antidepressants, heart medicines and oral contraceptives.
You may want to increase your daily vitamins A and C intake. These vitamins can be found in food and are part of a healthy diet that can help prevent periodontitis. Conversely, cut sugary and starchy foods, which allow plaque to build.
Visit your dentist as soon as you begin to notice any potential dental concerns. Correct dental problems or oral health issues such as teeth grinding, or misaligned or crowded teeth. It can be more challenging to properly clean teeth that aren’t properly spaced, thus providing room for plaque to grow and thrive.
Practice good oral hygiene and massage your gums regularly. Along with brushing and flossing regularly (at least twice a day for two minutes each time for brushing, and once daily for thorough flossing), show your gums some love by gently massaging them, which increases blood flow to the tissue.
Choose to use toothpaste with fluoride. This key ingredient removes the buildup of plaque bacteria along the gum line without irritating gums.
Quit smoking and don't start back up. Smoking is not only strongly associated with the onset of gum disease, but it also makes it more difficult for your gums to heal once they’re damaged, as smoking weakens the immune system.
Know your lifestyle and genetic risk factors. Whether genetics, diet, age, smoking or other factors make you more susceptible to periodontitis, knowledge is power when it comes to reducing your risk and staying healthy.
Bonus: Speak with your dentist about optional treatment options. The earlier your dentist can detect periodontitis (if you do get it), the better. That's because it's easier to treat gum disease in its earlier stages than when it has advanced to the point that you start to lose teeth or jaw bone tissue. Depending on how far the disease has progressed and its severity, there are surgical and non-surgical options for treatment.
Be sure to visit the dentist regularly. Routine professional dental care will go a long way in the fight to prevent gum disease. Our gums are as important as our teeth when it comes to our oral health, so it’s important not to neglect them.