What is periodontitis and how does gum disease occur?
Periodontitis (gum disease) is a serious condition that will continue to become more severe over time if left untreated. Because it is typically painless in its early stages (gingivitis), it can easily evolve to an advanced stage before you become aware of any problems.
Plaque 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, and bacteria collect here, which can lead to other health problems such as cardiovascular disease. Once plaque has hardened into tartar you will need your dentist to use special tools to clear it away.
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 for maintaining your oral health.
How can I prevent periodontitis?
There are certain things that you can do to help prevent periodontitis. You may want to:
Talk to your dentists about the medications you take. Certain medications can contribute to and aggravate gum disease, including antidepressants, heart medicines and oral contraceptives.
Increase your daily intake of Vitamins A and C. These are both part of a healthy diet that can help prevent periodontitis. Conversely, cut sugary and starchy foods, which allow plaque to build.
Seek dental care at the first sign of issues. 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.
Massage your gums daily. 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 toothpaste with added fluoride. This key ingredient removes the buildup of plaque bacteria along the gum line without irritating gums.
Quit smoking and never look back. 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.
Find out what conditions you are predisposed 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.
Speak with your dentists about treatment for periodontal disease. 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.