Gum disease is prevalent in the United States with more than 3 million cases each year. Also referred to as periodontitis, gum disease occurs when bacteria accumulate in the mouth. If not promptly treated, gum disease can gradually lead to periodontitis, an advanced infection that can damage oral tissues and the bone responsible for supporting your teeth.
Proper oral hygiene habits are key to preventing gum disease. This involves visiting the dentist regularly, flossing daily, and brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Eating a nutritional, balanced meal is also important to maintaining a healthy smile. Learn more about what causes it and what steps to take to prevent this common condition.
What Causes Gum Disease?
In the majority of cases, gum disease begins with plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that coats the teeth. Plaque can form on the teeth when sugars and starches in the foods and beverages you consume interact with the normal bacteria found in your mouth. Although regular brushing and flossing help to get rid of plaque, it can re-form quickly.
If plaque is not removed from the teeth, it can begin to harden into tartar under the gumline. Tartar can only be removed by a dental professional. The longer that plaque and tartar are left on the teeth, the more damage they can do.
The mildest form of gum disease is known as gingivitis. Gingivitis refers to the irritation and inflammation around the teeth (gingiva). Through proper at-home oral care and professional cleanings, gingivitis can often be reversed. However, ongoing gum inflammation can cause periodontitis, putting the patient at risk for tooth loss.
Ways to Prevent Gum Disease
1. Practice Good Oral Hygiene
The best thing you can do to prevent gum disease is to practice good oral hygiene. Gum disease is a condition that progresses over time, not overnight. By brushing and flossing your teeth consistently, you can keep your teeth and gums healthy.
2. See Your Dentist Every Six Months
While you can remove most of the plaque on your teeth at home, only a professional dentist can remove tartar and help you achieve a truly clean mouth. Ideally, you should visit your dentist every six months for a routine exam and cleaning. Your dentist can also help you reverse gingivitis in its early stages and treat more serious cases of gum disease.
3. Use Mouthwash
Mouthwash is often overlooked during normal oral hygiene regimens. Using mouthwash each time you brush and floss can help rinse away excess food particles from the mouth. Rinsing your mouth with mouthwash can also lessen the total amount of bacteria in the mouth. Opt for a mouthwash that contains fluoride to help strengthen your teeth.
4. Quit Smoking and Using Tobacco Products
Cigarettes and other tobacco products can wreak havoc on your oral health. There has been a direct link between smoking and the onset of gum disease as smoking weakens the immune system, making it harder to fight off gum infections. Smoking can also interfere with the healing process, making it difficult for the gums to heal once they have suffered damage.
5. Chew Sugar-Free Gum
Chewing sugar-free gum helps to stimulate saliva production in the mouth which helps wash away food particles and bacteria. Gum that contains sugar is not recommended as bacteria in the mouth feed on sugar to produce acids that attack tooth enamel. Chewing sugar-free gum can be especially beneficial after meals if you are unable to brush your teeth right away.
6. Eat a Balanced Diet
Not only is consuming a balanced diet important for your overall health but can also ward off tooth decay and gum disease. Steer clear of sugary foods and beverages that can contribute to oral health problems. Instead, stock your kitchen with nutritional foods.
Schedule an Appointment
Hancock Village Dental is a family-owned and operated dental practice that offers preventative, restorative, and cosmetic dentistry. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, contact us at 352-989-5815.