Both our oral health and overall physical health can be impacted by periodontal disease. Here, our Peterborough dentists define periodontitis and offer tips on prevention.
What is periodontitis (gum disease)?
The progressive condition periodontitis (also referred to as gum disease) gradually invades your gums. Since it's usually painless in its early stages (gingivitis), it can easily advance before you become aware of any issues.
Plaque builds up on your teeth and along the gum line, then hardens into a rough, porous deposit known as calculus or tartar. Pockets develop between the teeth and irritated gums. When bacteria collect here, this 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 gum deterioration - and eventually even tooth loss. In fact, gum disease is one of the most common causes of tooth loss in adults.
That's why practicing a rigorous daily hygiene routine of brushing and flossing to remove plaque - as well as attending regular dental hygiene appointments - are key for prevention and maintaining your oral health.
How can I prevent periodontitis?
Did you know there are some less obvious ways to avoid gum disease or reduce your risk of getting it? You may want to:
Take inventory of your medications. Some medications can contribute to and aggravate gum disease, including oral contraceptives, antidepressants and heart medicines.
Increase your consumption of vitamins A and C. These are all part of a healthy diet that can help prevent periodontitis. Conversely, cut starchy and sugary foods that allow plaque to build.
Have dental issues treated quickly. Resolve dental issues or oral health problems such as misaligned or crowded teeth, or grinding of teeth. It can be more challenging to properly clean teeth that aren't correctly spaced, which allows room for plaque to grow and thrive.
Gently massage your gums. 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.
Use fluoride toothpaste.This key ingredient removes the buildup of plaque bacteria along the gum line without irritating gums.
Quit smoking. Smoking is not only strongly associated with the onset of gum disease, it makes it more difficult for your gums to heal once they’re damaged, as smoking weakens the immune system.
Know your risks. 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: Ask your dentist about periodontal disease treatment. 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.
Regular oral hygiene - and reducing your personal risk factors - 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.