Periodontal disease can negatively affect your oral health in addition to your overall physical health. Here, our Toronto dentists define periodontitis and offer some tips about prevention to our patients.
What is periodontitis (gum disease)?
Periodontitis (also called gum disease) is a progressive condition that can gradually impact your smile. Sibce gum disease is relatively painless in its earliest stages, it can easily evolve into an advanced stage before you become aware of any problems.
Plaque collects on your teeth and along your gums, hardening into a rough and porous deposit called calculus or tartar. Pockets of this substance form between your teeth and your irritated gums, allowing bacteria to build up below your gum line and get into your bloodstream, causing health issues like cardiovascular disease. Once they have hardened, only your dentist will have the tools required to remove the plaque.
In its advanced stages, periodontitis can cause loss of bone structure and deterioration of gums - eventually even tooth loss. In fact, gum disease is one of the most common 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?
There are also some less obvious tips that 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, which 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. Correct dental problems or oral health issues such as teeth grinding, misaligned or crowded teeth. It can be more challenging to properly clean teeth that aren’t properly spaced, thus providing 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 that your dentist is able to detect periodontitis (if you do have it) the better your outcomes usually are. This is because it is easier to treat gum disease in its earliest stages than when it has advanced to the point where you begin losing your teeth or the structure of your jawbone. Depending on how far the disease has progressed, there are surgical and non-surgical options for treatment.
Regular oral hygiene - and reducing your personal 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.