What is periodontitis (gum disease)?
Periodontitis (gum disease) is a progressive condition that infiltrates your gums gradually. Because it is usually painless in the early stages (gingivitis), it can quickly progress to an advanced stage before you notice any problems.
Plaque collects on your teeth and along the gum line, then hardens into tartar or calculus, a rough, porous deposit. Pockets form between teeth and irritated gums, and bacteria accumulate here, leading to other health issues such as cardiovascular disease. Only your dentist will be able to remove plaque once it has hardened.
Periodontitis, in its advanced stages, can cause bone structure loss and gum deterioration, as well as tooth loss. In fact, gum disease is one of the leading causes of adult tooth loss.
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.
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.
Increase your consumption 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.
Have dental issues treated quickly. Correct dental problems or oral health issues such as teeth grinding, and 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), 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, but it also 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 sooner your dentist detects periodontitis (if you do develop it), the better. This is because gum disease is easier to treat in its early stages than when it has progressed to the point where you begin to lose teeth or jaw bone tissue. There are surgical and non-surgical treatment options depending on how far the disease has progressed and how severe it is.
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.