Periodontal disease is the result of the bacteria in plaque, which is the sticky, colorless film that forms on teeth. In the susceptible patient, plaque can cause inflammation in the gums, and eventually causes the supporting bone. Inflamed gums, or gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease.
So, how can you prevent periodontal disease? Dr. Jessica Stilley responds, “We came up with three simple ways to combat periodontal disease, and the first two are aimed directly at eliminating bacteria, plaque, and calculus (the substance that forms when plaque hardens).”
1) Practice good dental hygiene at home
How can you reduce dangerous bacteria and plaque in the mouth? That’s right – good oral hygiene. Regular brushing and flossing to remove plaque and food particles from your mouth and to massage the gums is imperative. The latter stimulates blood flow to the tissue and keeps gums healthy. Flossing at least once a day and also brushing the tongue to remove bacteria are also very important. Some other best practices are drinking fluoridated water, eliminating sodas and acidic drinks, and generally cutting down on sugary foods. Not allowing bacteria to sit on the surfaces of the teeth for too long goes a long way in reducing the chance of inflammation and periodontal disease.
2) Regularly visiting your dentist
Keeping up with your oral health is important, but visiting a dental professional at least twice a year is extremely important in the prevention of periodontal disease. Your dentist will be able to examine the mouth, tongue, and soft tissues including the gums, and will look for the presence of pockets around the teeth. These pockets form when gums are inflamed and provide a larger space for bacteria to live and cause damage. Signs of inflammation, bleeding gums, and receding gums/lengthening teeth will cause your dentist to suggest periodontal treatment.
3) Being aware of risk factors
Your age, diet, genetics, and habits (such as tobacco use) can all increase your risk for periodontal disease. In terms of age, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that over 70% of Americans 65 and older have periodontitis. Studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease. You can prevent this or at least get examined more frequently. Stress, diabetes, poor nutrition, obesity, and certain medications can also put you at risk. It is helpful for your dental professionals to also be knowledgeable of your non-dental health, in order to help you fight periodontitis.
Dr. Steven Lieber summarizes, “The main cause of periodontal (gum) disease is plaque, but the other risk factors affect the health of your gums and can’t be ignored. Please share this post with someone who has a smile you hope to protect.”