Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, can negatively affect our oral and overall physical health. Today, our Kenora dentists explain periodontitis and offer tips on how to prevent it.
What is periodontitis (gum disease)?
Periodontitis (gum disease) is a progressive condition that gradually damages your gums. Because it is typically painless in its early stages (gingivitis), it can be easy to miss until it progresses into a more serious condition.
Plaque - a thin, sticky film of bacteria, 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 where bacteria can collect and fester. 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. In fact, gum disease is one of the most common causes of tooth loss in adults. Periodontitis has also been linked to serious health issues such as cardiovascular disease. This is because the pockets of infection in the gums allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body.
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.
How can I prevent periodontitis?
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:
Take inventory of your medications. Certain medications can contribute to and aggravate gum disease, including antidepressants, heart medicines, and oral contraceptives. While you may be required to take these medications, knowing the risks can help you pay close attention to your oral health and flag any issues with your dentist early on.
Consider your diet. Be sure to eat a balanced diet and try to cut back on sugary and starchy foods that can lead to an increased plaque build-up.
Promptly have dental issues treated. Correct dental problems or oral health issues such as teeth grinding, 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.
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), you can care for your gums by gently massaging them to increase 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.
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.