Periodontal disease has the potential to harm not only our oral health but also our overall physical well-being. Our Calgary dentists define periodontitis today and offer prevention advice.
What is periodontitis (gum disease)?
Periodontitis (gum disease) is a chronic infection of the gums that worsens over time. Because it is usually painless in the early stages (gingivitis), it can quickly progress to an advanced stage before you notice any symptoms.
Plaque collects on your teeth and along the gum line, then hardens into tartar or calculus, a rough, porous deposit. Bacteria collect in pockets formed between teeth and irritated gums, which can lead 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 result in bone loss and gum deterioration, as well as tooth loss. Gum disease is, in fact, one of the leading 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?
Some less obvious tips 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. These 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. Teeth grinding, misaligned or crowded teeth are examples of dental problems or oral health issues. It can be more difficult to properly clean teeth that aren't evenly spaced, allowing 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, and once daily for thorough flossing), massage your gums gently 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 linked to the development of gum disease, but it also makes it more difficult for your gums to heal once they've been damaged, as it 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. If you do develop periodontitis, the sooner your dentist can detect 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 are losing 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. Reducing your 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.