Everyone knows the basics for overall health, right? Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, stay hydrated, get enough sleep. But one frequently overlooked key to your health is your periodontal health — the health of your gums.
Did you know that periodontal disease is one of the most common infections in the world and is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults?
In today’s blog post, we’ll review periodontal health, discuss common symptoms, and take a look at how the gums can impact your overall health.
What is periodontal disease?
Your periodontium is the bone and the gum tissue that surrounds your teeth and holds them in place. Periodontal disease (or gum and bone disease) is an infection of this tissue. It usually begins as plaque build-up around the teeth.
While it’s easy to assume that if your gums don’t hurt, they aren’t infected. Gum disease is painless and you won’t realize you have it until the infection is very advanced. 47.2% of adults over the age of 30 have periodontal disease, and periodontal disease increases with age. 70.1% of adults aged 65 or over have periodontal disease.
Gum disease usually results from poor brushing and flossing habits, but can be genetic in nature. Symptoms of advanced gum disease may include:
- Chronic bad breath
- Gums that bleed after brushing or flossing
- Gums that are pulling away from the tooth
- Teeth becoming loose in their sockets
Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is a more minor infection of the gums that can often be reversed if it is caught soon enough.
As gum disease becomes more severe, treatments become more challenging. That’s why preventive measures and early diagnosis are so important. The earlier we can catch gum disease, the better!
Causes of gum disease
It’s easy to forget because we can’t see it, but our mouths are full of bacteria. Most are the friendly kind, helping us break down food and aiding our immune system in fighting off infections. But some are less friendly, especially when they gather around the teeth and gum lines and cause tooth decay.
This bacteria is known as plaque. Plaque, a sticky film that builds up around teeth, hardens and becomes more difficult to remove over time. Brushing and flossing your teeth helps remove some this bacteria build up, but not all of it.
This build-up of plaque over time is what eventually leads to gum disease if left untreated.
Gum disease risks you should be aware of include:
- Irregular brushing and flossing
- Infrequent dental exams and cleaning
- High carb diet
- Smoking and other tobacco products
- Hormonal shifts for women
- Family history
If you fall under any of these categories, schedule an appointment with your dentist today and learn what you can do to decrease your risk of developing gum disease.
How is periodontal health connected to my overall health?
The health of your gums doesn’t only impact your oral health. Studies have shown that gum disease is directly connected to a number of diseases or medical emergencies in other parts of the body. This includes:
- Diabetes – gum disease is known to raise your blood sugar levels.
- Heart disease – multiple studies have found a link between periodontal disease and heart disease.
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s – adults with gum disease are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia, according to one study. This is due to a protein that develops in response to the gum infection.
- Stroke – the bacteria that causes inflammation of the gums has been linked to the arteries hardening, increasing the risk of a stroke.
- Immunological diseases- chronic inflammation in the bone and gums can cause weakness of your immune system and increase your chances of developing immune system diseases not to mention make you more susceptible to other infections.
Scientists believe bacteria from infected gums escape into the bloodstream when we chew or brush our teeth, triggering a reaction in the body that has harmful effects.
How to keep your gums healthy
One of the most important steps to maintaining good oral health is keeping the gums healthy. And it’s easier than you think. A few simple ways you can keep your gums healthy:
Go to your regular dental cleanings and exams every 6 months
This is one of the most effective ways to prevent gum disease. Your dental hygienist will be able to remove pesky plaque you can’t remove at home yourself. Your dentist will help diagnose any issues and create a treatment plan specific to you as well as giving you advice on how to improve your care at home.
Floss at least once daily
Flossing prevents plaque build that leads to gingivitis and gum disease. Flossing helps remove bacteria between your teeth that you can’t reach from regular brushing.
Brush your teeth twice a day
Proper brushing techniques used twice per day helps remove plaque from your teeth and along the gum line, where harmful bacteria might hide. Your hygienist will provide guidance on how to brush effectively and which toothbrush and toothpaste to use for your situation.
Use a fluoride toothpaste
Fluoride is a mineral that rebuilds tooth enamel and in some instances, helps reverse tooth decay. When you use a fluoride toothpaste to brush your teeth, you are both removing bacteria and helping reverse any damage done by plaque.
Consider using a mouthwash
Mouthwash is good for more than just freshening breath. When it contains ingredients that kill bacteria, such as fluoride or essential oils, it can help with gingivitis, plaque, and tooth decay.
Did you know that smoking weakens the immune system? This makes it harder for the body to fight off the bacterial infection of gum disease, and causes the gums to heal more slowly afterward.
We’re here to help
Remember, the key to good periodontal health is preventing gum disease in the first place! Regular teeth cleanings and 6-month exams are one of the best ways to prevent gum disease.
When you come in for your appointment at our Medford office, we’ll comfortably remove hardened plaque from your teeth that you can’t reach simply from brushing and flossing. After that, we’ll discuss any tips or advice about problem areas, and assess the health of your gums.
It’s our goal to ensure you have the care you need. If there are any signs of gingivitis or gum disease, Dr. Catt will create a personalized treatment plan and review it with you to determine the next steps to improve your dental health.
Contact us today to set up your appointment with Dr. Catt!