Periodontal disease can negatively affect our oral health and our overall physical health. Today, the dentists from our five Toronto locations (Bay Adelaide Dental, College Park Dental, King-York Dental, Brookfield Place Dental and Richmond-Adelaide Dental) define periodontitis and share some tips on prevention.
What is periodontitis (gum disease)?
Periodontitis (gum disease) is a progressive condition that gradually invades your gums. In early stages (gingivitis), periodontitis is often painless, meaning it can quietly evolve to an advanced stage before you noticed any problems.
Plaque collects on your teeth and along the gum line, then hardens into tartar or calculus (a rough, porous deposit). Pockets form between the teeth and irritated gums, collecting bacteria, which can lead to other health problems such as cardiovascular disease. Once hardened, only dentists will have the tools to remove plaque.
Advanced stages of periodontitis can lead to loss of bone structure and deterioration of gums - eventually even tooth loss. It's important to note that gum disease is one of the most common causes of tooth loss in adults.
That’s why removing plaque with a rigorous daily oral 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 also some less obvious tips that may help you avoid gum disease or increase your chance of prevention. 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, which are part of a healthy diet that can help with periodontitis prevention. Conversely, cut sugary and starchy foods, which allow plaque to build.
- Have dental issues treated quickly. Correct dental problems or oral health issues such as misaligned or crowded teeth or teeth grinding. Teeth that aren’t properly spaced can be more challenging to properly clean, giving room for 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 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 fluoride toothpaste.This key ingredient removes the buildup of plaque bacteria along the gum line without irritating gums.
- Quit smoking. Smoking is not only strongly associated with the onset of gum disease, it makes it more difficult for your gums to heal once they’re damaged, as smoking 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. The earlier your dentist can detect periodontitis (if you do get it), the better. It is easier to treat gum disease in 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's severity, there are surgical and non-surgical options for periodontal disease treatment.
- Regular oral hygiene - and reducing your personal risk factors - will go a long way in the prevention of 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.