Gum disease is an oral health problem that could have serious consequences on your overall health and well-being.
Your gums are living tissue that perform many important functions. Gum tissue supports your teeth, for example, and they provide nutrition for the tooth roots that hold your teeth securely in your jawbone. Your gums also serve as a protective barrier between the harmful bacteria that may be in your mouth and your bloodstream, where the bacteria can cause inflammation and other health problems.
Gum disease is common. In fact, nearly half of all adults aged 30 and over have some form of gum disease. Many people with gum disease lose their teeth and end up replacing their missing teeth with dentures or dental implants. Both dentures and dental implants cost more than taking care of your natural teeth – even one tooth implant cost more than a dental cleaning.
Gum disease can be progressive, which means it can get worse – especially without treatment. Gingivitis is the early form of gum disease. It develops when a sticky substance, known as plaque, builds up on the surface of your teeth. Your gums react to the presence of plaque by swelling up; the long plaque remains on your teeth, the more likely your gums are to swell. This inflammation is the hallmark of gingivitis.
Left unaddressed, gingivitis can turn into the more serious form of gum disease known as periodontitis. Plaque can harden into tartar, which is harder to remove and even more irritating to your gums. What’s more, tartar can trap infection-causing bacteria against your gums. Irritation and inflammation can cause pockets to develop between your teeth and gums, where tartar and bacteria can get to the roots of your teeth and even to your jawbone.
Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent gum disease from starting or progressing into the more severe forms.
How Can I Prevent Gum Disease?
Brush your teeth
Brushing your teeth after meals helps remove the food debris and plaque stuck between your teeth and gums. It is important to brush properly, though, to remove food and plaque. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against your gums; brush each tooth 15 to 20 times, using short back-and-forth strokes. Don’t scrub, as your gums are more delicate than you might expect.
For best results, brush your tongue too – bacteria love to hide in between your taste buds and other structures of your tongue.
Floss between each tooth
Floss at least once daily to help remove food particles and plaque between your teeth and along the gum line where your toothbrush can’t quite reach.
Swish with mouthwash
Rinsing with mouthwash can remove plaque and food particles you may have missed with brushing and flossing.
Know your risk for gum disease
A number of factors can increase your risk for gum disease. While not all risk factors are controllable, identifying your controllable risk factors helps you make positive lifestyle changes that reduce your risk for gum disease.
Age is not a controllable risk factor, but it is important to remember that your risk for gum disease increases throughout the years. In fact, more than 70 percent of adults 65 and older have some form of gum disease.
As you get older, stay vigilant on your oral hygiene routine and visit your dentist regularly.
Smoking weakens your immune system, which means your body cannot protect itself as well from infections. Once you have gum damage, smoking and a weakened immune system also makes it harder for your gums to heal.
If you smoke, quit.
As the old saying goes, “You are what you eat.” Many dentists think that good nutrition is essential for the prevention of gum disease, and that some foods can actually promote gum disease. More specifically, foods that are high in sugar, high in fat, and low in fiber are associated with an increased risk for gum disease.
To lower your risk for gum disease, reduce your intake of sweet and fatty foods, and increase the amount of whole grains, vegetables and other high-fiber foods.
You may inherit a higher risk for gum disease from your parents. While you cannot control your genetics, you can be aware that you have a higher risk for gum disease and take especially good care of your teeth and gums.
If genetics puts you at greater risk for gum disease, speak with your dentist – we can look for early signs of gum disease and suggest ways to reduce your risk.
Recognize the signs and symptoms of gum disease
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of gum disease in its early stages can help you prevent the infection from developing into a more severe form.
Undergo regular dental cleanings
While you can remove food particles, bacteria and plaque with regular brushing and flossing, you cannot remove tartar – only dental professionals can remove tartar during in-office cleanings.
For more information on ways to prevent gum disease, all on four, or dental implants near me, consult with our dental team.