Oral conditions and diseases not only affect the state of your teeth but can also have a widespread effect on your overall health. Today, our Sault Ste. Marie dentists define periodontitis, otherwise known as gum disease, and offer tips on prevention.
What is periodontitis (gum disease)?
Periodontitis (gum disease) is a progressive condition that gradually invades your gums. Unfortunately, while in its early stages, also known as gingivitis, it is typically painless, allowing it to quickly and easily evolve to an advanced stage before you become aware of any problems.
Tartar or calculus occurs when plaque builds up along the gum line and hardens when it has not been addressed quickly enough. Pockets form between the teeth and irritated gums, and bacteria collect here, which can lead to other health problems such as cardiovascular disease. Once tartar develops, you will need the help of your dentist and their tools to remove it.
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.
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 maintaining your oral health.
What can I do to 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:
Consider your medications. Certain medications can contribute to and aggravate gum disease, including antidepressants, heart medicines and oral contraceptives.
Increase your intake of vitamins A and C, which are part of a healthy diet that can help prevent periodontitis. Conversely, cut sugary and starchy foods, which allow plaque to build.
Address dental issues as soon as you possibly can. 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.
Massage your gums frequently. Along with brushing twice daily and flossing once a day, show your gums some love by gently massaging them, which increases blood flow to the tissue.
Use toothpaste with added fluoride. This key ingredient removes the buildup of plaque bacteria along the gum line without irritating gums or the need for special tools or equipment.
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.
Be aware of what you are susceptible to. 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.
Discuss treatment for periodontal disease with your dentist. Having periodontitis treated as soon as possible is ideal in order to ensure the best outcome. 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.